On the heels of last week’s news that the high brow culture and news publication The Atlantic posted its first profit “in decades” — and that ad revenues rose 37 percent, with print and online up a respective 27- and 70 percent — Jay Lauf, the mag’s VP and publisher told paidContent that executives are rethinking its premium iPad app. The Atlantic Premium iPad app was under construction last fall, as an adjunct to its Atlantic Digital, which serves as a shell for sales of $4.99 replicas of the print edition. “We felt that we missed that first wave of iPad magazine releases and we wanted to do something a little different, a little more special,” Lauf said in an interview.
In deciding to go back to the drawing board with the iPad app, Lauf said that iPad magazine apps in general are still in the experimental stage. Since The Atlantic already has the existing magazine app that was rolled out last August, Lauf said they wanted to take a little more time to experiment rather than just come out with a series of apps over time. It might be about two or three months until this new version of the Atlantic Premium is released, but Lauf declined to offer a specific date.
Lauf also didn’t go into too many details about what the switch was, though the company was said to be leaning towards breaking out special “iPad only” content from one or more of its sections from its online AtlanticWire news blog and online opinion section.
“Right now, after the first release of magazines for the iPad and other tablets, it looks as if the scale is still pretty small” for most titles, Lauf said. “The app doesn’t end with a traditional magazine plus with bells and whistles and other big bang features. It’s too early to understand what consumers really want from it. We know that we want more than one option and that there’s a lot that we can offer. So we’ll wait and see.”
In terms of revenues, Lauf and The Atlantic feel pretty good about the second year of large revenue increases — though, citing The Atlantic as a private entity, he declined to provide specific figures. For the year, The Atlantic’s ad pages were up 24 percent, according to figures released this week by the Publishers Information Bureau.
The PIB also said The Atlantic’s rate card revenues were up 30 percent to $35.4 million in 2010. Given that rate cards are merely a benchmark and not necessarily an actual reflection of what was charged, since most publishers offer advertisers discounts on placements, considering that the industry in general generated only a 3.1 percent increase for its rate card revenues, and a loss of 0.1 percent in ad pages for the year, The Atlantic’s numbers certainly seem impressive in that light.
Lauf credited the wider ad recovery for The Atlantic’s strong performance last year. That helped boost the title’s core ad categories — financial services, corporate branding and, its largest one, automotives — across both print and digital. Secondly, the magazine was able to broaden its appeal to advertisers in the tech, b2b and consumer travel spaces.
This year, Lauf is confident that by expanding its client base to include more consumer related tech and travel and lifestyle, the magazine will be able to deliver double digit revenue gains in 2011. Though he’s confident about about being able to keep the momentum going, the continuing economic uncertainty and the greater struggles of the publishing business do make him catch himself a bit. “Anyone who says they don’t have butterflies about looking to drive revenue increases by 2012 during the first week of January 2011, is lying,” he said. “But we’ve only scratched the surface for a lot of these ad categories and there’s a lot of room to grow in terms of our content areas, in terms of the iPad and elsewhere. So, when I think about what we did last year, I think we have a logical plan to repeat it.”