How The Atlantic Is Rethinking Magazine Publishing

the-atlantic-1857If newspapers are struggling to redefine their role in the face of a 24/7 assault from the internet, what of the weekly and monthly magazine?

Many of those that publish every seven days were once thought of as weekly newspapers, now surely an oxymoron.

But others, who have always used their pages to offer the long view, are carving out bits of the internet they can call their own.

Among the most thoughtful, both in its writing and its approach to the web, is The Atlantic, a US periodical launched in the 1857 in part dedicated to the abolition of slavery.

The modern-day Atlantic has been quick to see opportunities in new media,  turning star columnists and contributors into must-read bloggers. The likes of Andrew Sullivan and James Fellows, a rare pre-war critic of our recent adventure in Iraq, instinctively understand the form. Sullivan especially.

He posts early and often, occasionally launching into an essay but usually hoovering up interesting thoughts and ideas from around the blogosphere and adding a line or two of insight. Blogger as magpie, just as it should be.

The Atlantic is also perfectly positioned to lead what digital media specialist Lloyd Shepherd has referred to in the past as the slow news movement –  an effort to throw some light on the affairs of the moment, when all we have is the heat of rolling, non-stop news.

Now, the magazine is trialling something that may turn out to be a serious source of revenue to the magazine market. (Or merely a worthwhile experiment.)

It has taken Hewlett-Packard’s custom-publishing product MagCloud, targeted at the local newsletter brigade more than the professional publisher, and is using it to sell a specially produced retrospective.

Brave Thinkers identifies 27 men and women who “who commit acts of moral and intellectual bravery by espousing unpopular or controversial positions”. These are essays drawn from the archive, repackaged in a 60-page special and available to buy in print format, via the website, for $6.

As Catharine P. Taylor notes over at the BNET Media Blog:

What a wonderful way to resurface — and make money off of — great content that’s been sitting in a vault somewhere!

Other magazines, either side of the Atlantic (Ocean), would do worse than follow suit.

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