The Atlantic Launches a Paid Product

'The Atlantic Weekly' bets on readers' willingness to pay for curation

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For a 155-year-old print publication, The Atlantic has never been shy about digital experimentation—a strategy that, so far, seems to have paid off, considering that the brand’s full-year digital ad revenues exceeded its print ad revenues for the first time in 2012. Now, The Atlantic is placing a bet on its readers’ willingness to pay for curation with the launch of The Atlantic Weekly, a paid tablet magazine.

The Atlantic Weekly will collect the week’s best stories from, The Atlantic Wire and The Atlantic Cities, as well as selections from its In Focus photo blog and an article from the magazine’s archive (reproduced as it originally appeared in print), reformatted as a magazine for the iPad and iPhone. Beginning today, issues will appear on the Apple Newsstand every Friday afternoon—just in time for weekend reading—and will cost $1.99 for a single issue. Readers can also subscribe for $2.99 a month or $19.99 a year.

“This is an idea that’s been brewing here for quite some time,” said James Bennet, editor in chief of The Atlantic. “Our concern has been that some of our better [online] pieces can get lost during the week, and that we’re not serving our readers as well on the weekend when there is time to lean back and digest a good idea.”

The first issue contains Web articles like Molly Ball’s “Will Obama Lose the Left?”, photos from the uprising in Turkey, and a story from the magazine’s archive written by Henry David Thoreau in 1862. In honor of Father’s Day this weekend, there’s also “How YouTube Taught Me to Be a Man” by Michael Anthony Adams. “Would you have read that piece on a Tuesday afternoon when you had a million things gong on? Maybe not,” said Bennet. “But on a Sunday, when you’re not distracted, you can.”

While the “Weekly” title may connote a certain type of print product, Bennet says that the new app has been entirely conceived for mobile reading. “We’re not out to recreate the news magazine,” he said, adding that The Atlantic Weekly will provide an “undistracted, focused, clean” and ad-free (for the time being, at least) reading environment.

But will users pay for a magazine filled mostly with content that they can access for free on the Web? “We hope they will, and we think they will,” said Bennet. “We think there’s real value to the format we’re presenting [the content] in, and obviously there’s cost in creating it…We need our readers’ support for us to be able to do it.”

The Atlantic Weekly is only the third paid product offered by the brand. It already produces a mobile version of The Atlantic (which, incidentally, is not available in the Apple Newsstand, having launched before the Newsstand’s debut) and recently launched The Atlantic Books, a digital publishing imprint for longform content.

“We had people from editorial, design, production, development all working across to dream up this whole new way of serving up our best work,” said Bennet. “We’re experimenting wildly at The Atlantic, and that’s what’s fun about it.”

@adweekemma Emma Bazilian is Adweek's features editor.