Cover Story: All Charged Up and Ready to Grow (More)
An Engaging Sales Strategy
An important component of the company's success has been growth in its events sector, up 27 percent in 2009. The company created a separate events division (with a separate sales force), called Atlantic Live, which has allowed the company to make significant investments in an expanding events business. "Thought leadership" forums, such as the State of the Union for Health Care and the Washington Ideas Forum, constitute a free-standing, independent revenue stream.
To facilitate a collaborative cross-platform sales environment, the Washington D.C.-based company has built a strong marketing and sales operation in New York. The sales strategy is built around "creative brand-marketing packages," Smith says, rather than the direct response model currently in vogue. "While everyone is competing with Google and the ad networks—and we are too, certainly— we think that we can best compete by understanding our brand marketers' companies, their brand values, their marketing objectives, and integrating those … with our site and content in a way that engages our users in two-way conversations."
A partnership with Porsche on a month-long digital editorial program ("inspired by Porsche's brand focus," according to a company spokesperson) is an example. It showcased an interview with Andrew Sullivan—The Atlantic's marquee blogger—shaped by TheAtlantic.com's user-submitted questions. With 60,000 video views at press time and 400 question submissions, the interview ranks No. 2 among the site's most-viewed videos, and positioned Porsche as a facilitator of the discussion, according to AMC.
The company's audience is one of the most coveted on the planet. According to Mediamark Research Inc.'s "Influentials" index, which tracks the reading habits of consumers highly involved in activism or the public sphere, The Atlantic enjoys the most influential magazine audience in America.
Key to AMC's success with this market, Smith contends, has been a focus on quality editorial content. "Not many brands … have the luxury of thinking through issues really deeply," he says. "It's a bit of a dying art …, and I think this is what a lot of people are worried about with the decline of journalism. The number of organizations that are paying people to think deeply on an issue, and then report it ... is dwindling by the second. As the competition dwindles, we are certainly doubling down on this.