Cover Story: All Charged Up and Ready to Grow (More)
Back in the 1990s, before blogs, Twitter and a host of upstart Web sites transformed online debate into a raucous convention anyone could gate crash, David G. Bradley decided to build a media company around the "influentials" market. The guiding notion was that opinion leaders—people who formulate, shape and promulgate important ideas—rather than gatekeepers or copyright owners, were the true heirs to the digital kingdom, and that a lucrative consumer market could be constituted by those charged with putting good ideas into action.
Bradley, who built his fortune as a founder of the Advisory Board Company, was on to something. His first media venture was to buy the National Journal, the most influential and respected publication on Capitol Hill. He followed this by purchasing The Atlantic Monthly in 1999. Over the next decade, his Atlantic Media Co. (AMC) would transform a 150-year-old legacy print product into the flagship of a vibrant suite of consumer properties.
According to Justin B. Smith, president of AMC's consumer media division since 2007 and recently named company president, success has come from building and leveraging a strong brand across the print and online landscape.
"The reason why Web traffic and revenue is there is the basic notion that our brand—rooted in intelligent ideas [that can be explored quickly] on the Web or deeper in print—is equally well expressed in print and digital," says Smith. "Each of the mediums serves the brand expression in a different way, but it's the same core concept."
The numbers tell the tale. In the depths of a recession that has meant death to many a media venture, AMC saw an overall advertising-revenue surge of 16 percent in 2009, with a digital revenue gain of 115 percent. Print revenues last year were flat, "which we consider a great success relative to our competitors," Smith notes.