Cover Story: All Charged Up and Ready to Grow (More)
"We are trying to make sense of what's to come, [and] I think in the last two years we've done a great job of that," he says.
Others agree: Atlantic Editor James Bennet was named Advertising Age's "Editor of the Year" in 2009; TheAtlantic.com Editorial Director Bob Cohn recently made the list of GQ's "50 Most Powerful People in D.C."; and TheAtlantic.com won last year's Webby Award for Magazine Site of the Year.
Designed for Digital
What sets TheAtlantic.com apart is the site's real-time focus on "breaking opinion" on news of the day, says Smith. "If the magazine is a long-form, low-frequency place for learning about great ideas and arguments, the Web site is a real-time environment for conversations about ideas," he says. "I think the main reason for our success digitally, in terms of building an audience, is editorial that is very much designed for the digital medium as opposed to print editorial that is then transferred to the digital environment."
The Web content is like the magazine's, "but at a … velocity … and urgency that would never be possible in print," Smith says.
"Our editors use an expression—The New Yorker is like taking a warm bath," he says. "It's 'lean back,' it's entertainment, it's enjoyable. The Atlantic is like drinking a cup of espresso or strong coffee. ... You're generally reading content that is pretty charged with an idea. …"
For more than 3.2 million unique monthly visitors, TheAtlantic.com's approach seems to be working. The site's Atlantic Wire feature aggregates opinion and analysis from the Web into a searchable database of the nation's 50 "most influential opinion makers." Successful Web channels launched last year focus on politics, business and food. According to a company press release, the Web site attracted 40 new sponsors in 2009, including Porsche, SAP, Cathay Pacific and Louis Vuitton.