Publishing Executive of the Year: Bob Cohn, president of The Atlantic

The news media business isn’t easy, which is why news of an ambitious period of growth at The Atlantic announced earlier this year was met with surprise. (“You read that right,” The New York Times quipped.)

Led by president Bob Cohn, who oversees editorial, revenue and operations on all platforms, the 161-year-old publisher is seeing one of its best years ever by leaning into its ever-diversifying business while maintaining the editorial excellence that is key to The Atlantic brand. It helps that the philanthropic Emerson Collective, which is run by Laurene Powell Jobs, just bought a majority stake in the magazine, too. Cohn, a longtime journalist who spent five years on The Atlantic’s editorial side before becoming president, said he’s proud revenue is growing across all sectors—year over year, total revenue is up 13 percent—all while The Atlantic has preserved and strengthened its editorial ethos.

“We’ve really completed our transformation from being a magazine, which we have been for 161 years, to really being a multiplatform media company,” Cohn tells Adweek. “That transformation has been years in the making, but I feel like in the last year we can say that we’ve really turned the corner.”

Part of that transformation has involved three new podcasts, a growing events business that leans into flagship events like The Atlantic Festival and the hire of more than 100 new staffers, half of whom will be on the editorial side. Cohn says the magazine is about halfway finished with those hires, who include former ESPN commentator Jemele Hill, culture and health writer Amanda Mull and former Facebook executive Alex Hardiman. The latter will lead consumer revenue opportunities, audience experience and product.

As the end of 2018 approaches, Cohn says he’s looking for opportunities to bring The Atlantic’s journalism to television and to home voice assistants, along with expanding paid content options, to continue steering the publication forward.

“Wherever an Atlantic audience wants to consume Atlantic content—whether it’s in print or digital, social streams, audio, video, live events—we want to be there, and we want to turn to our partners and find ways to partner up and deliver advertising in those spaces,” Cohn says. “That’s what we’ve done, and some of our greatest and most reliable partners have come with us.”

This story first appeared in the October 15, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@kelseymsutton Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.