Takes A Hammer To The Pay Wall; No Longer Just 'Marketing Site'

The online order page for The Atlantic still touts “instant access” to The Atlantic Online as part of the subscription. Not sure what the pitch will be Tuesday–that’s when the magazine officially knocks down its pay wall, removing online access as a selling point for print. James Bennet, the editor in chief, tells the NYT the site “functioned for too long as just a marketing arm for the print magazine, rather than publication in its own right.”’s climb to success on its own merits began last year with the luring Andrew Sullivan away from Time; Sullivan is credited with 30 percent of the site’s increased traffic. The site had 308,000 uniques in December, compared with 72,000 in December 2006, according to comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) Media Metrix; internal logs are higher. The numbers should increase this year between the removal of the subscription wall and the 2008 elections.

National correspondent James Fallows moved his blog, now coming from China much of the time, to the site and others, representing a spectrum of views, were encouraged to blog. The result: what the NYT calls “a sort of digital conversation.” Bennet’s take: “A highly turbulent Web site where people are engaging in argument with each other turns out to work very well with the idea of a polished monthly magazine about the same kind of political and cultural debate.” (The Atlantic publishes 10 times a year with a paid circ of about 400,000.) It also added video.

Now it’s adding sales people and an emphasis on making money from the site. One example: Goldman Sachs bought all the ad space for this week’s grand opening.