After the 2016 election, a flurry of stories famous Donald Trump’s election was respiratory new life into our decaying media business now that they’d necessary work to do, in a quest to avoid wasting America from tangerine-tinged fascism. Via NBC News, right here’s an replace on how that’s understanding at considered one of America’s status publications:
Nicholas Thompson, the chief govt of The Atlantic, gave a presentation to workers final month through which he disclosed some uncomfortable truths concerning the state of the journal.
Subscription development, which had skyrocketed in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the presidential election, had come again right down to earth. For the primary time, the variety of subscribers had plateaued and began to barely decline. And even with final yr’s substantial surge, the journal had misplaced greater than $20 million and was on observe to lose one other $10 million this yr, based on slides of the presentation shared with NBC News.
Left unsaid, in fact, is how foregoing all sense of ethics, propriety, restraint, and common sense presumably harm their enterprise mannequin. Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg is little question nonetheless searching down on-the-record sources for his nameless report on Trump calling useless American troopers “suckers” and “losers” after greater than 20 individuals within the Trump administration publicly denied it.
Other notable highlights from final yr embrace workers author David Frum declaring final October, “The people on far right and far left who publicized the obviously bogus @nypost story were not dupes. They were accomplices. The story could not have been more obviously fake if it had been wearing dollar-store spectacles and attached plastic mustache.”
Of course, let’s not overlook workers author Adam Serwer’s new assortment of Atlantic essays, “The Cruelty Is the Point: The Past, Present, and Future of Trump’s America,” which ought to be recommended for its nuanced and… simply kidding, Serwer’s e-book is about as refined and correct as performing LASIK with a chainsaw.
Anyway, it’s exhausting to say what precisely is occurring behind the scenes at The Atlantic, however as somebody who’s labored at three totally different political magazines — two of which ceased publication after their rich benefactors pulled the plug — maybe I’ve extra perception than most. The fact is that political magazines nearly all the time lose cash and have relied on benefactors and different fundraising to remain in enterprise. However, for a very long time I by no means actually considered The Atlantic as a “political” journal, the best way one may consider, say, National Review or The New Republic.
Prestige general-interest magazines — The New Yorker, Atlantic, Vanity Fair, and so on. — have traditionally had huge advertisers and respectable subscription bases and made actual cash as soon as upon a time. Per NBC information, The Atlantic nonetheless has about 750,000 subscribers, which looks as if it might nonetheless herald plenty of income.
However, if there’s one factor allegedly prestigious publications are identified for, it’s profligacy and bloat. The Atlantic’s CEO advised NBC the journal must make $50 million in annual subscription income simply to interrupt even, which exceeded even my jaundiced expectations for mismanagement masquerading as self-importance. For the salaries they should be paying, you’d assume these items they’re publishing from “Police Abolitionists” would a minimum of be well-edited and fact-checked.
There was a time 20 or so years in the past when The Atlantic was sufficient of a general-interest journal that it was keen to publish any variety of influential conservatives — Mark Steyn even had an everyday column for some time. Obviously, the internet-led basic collapse of the information business since that point hasn’t helped their funds, however the huge difficulty appears to me that The Atlantic took a profitable enterprise mannequin, the General Interest Prestige Magazine, and voluntarily turned it right into a shedding one, i.e. a Woke Political Magazine.
Remember in 2016 what an enormous deal it was that The Atlantic had solely twice earlier than endorsed a presidential candidate? Me neither, however The Atlantic endorsed Hillary Clinton anyway.
Anyway, I’m unsure any of this issues as a result of The Atlantic is presently owned by America’s best-known dowager, Laurene Powell Jobs. She can afford to grind very costly axes and may properly discover it value $50 million a yr to buy actual property on America’s airport gift-shop cabinets calling half the nation racist.
But it’s exhausting to faux that the monetary state of affairs at The Atlantic isn’t an indication of the diminishing affect of “prestige journalism.” As David Burge put it, “I’m no Henry Luce, but I think I could operate a magazine full of B+ Oberlin term papers for less than $50 million per year.”