Monday, February 28, 2011

Sullivan's Departure from the Atlantic

I've been unable to concentrate on a paper due in a couple of hours because I've been focusing on a fundamental question (for nerds and wonks, that is)- what does Andrew Sullivan's move from The Atlantic to The Daily Beast mean?

Well, it's really not clear. It only happened about 5 hours ago, and most bloggers haven't touched it yet, especially not to talk about anything deep. Ben Smith reported it first, and Jeffrey Goldberg gave a personal recollection about his importance as a blogger, but that's all so far. Everyone has reported it on Twitter (Yglasias, Klein, et al.) but none have details, or have been talking about the implications and larger context.

I have some questions, but nothing too thought out. Bear with me, if this is at all interesting to you. (Thanks to my friend Mikey, who helped me think through most of this and added insights, as always.)

First off, the Atlantic is a reputable magazine with a rich history. And with the journalism field suffering as it has been the past few years, it's one of the few magazine that has managed not only to balance impressive blog and articles, but improve and grow as a magazine. (And without having to charge for internet content, which is obviously important for those of us who are students and/or broke.) The Atlantic has really proven itself to be a premiere magazine in a lot of ways. NYTimes wrote a nice piece a couple of months ago about their business model and how they've used web integration in a way that other magazines should emulate- read it here. Why would Sullivan jump ship from the Atlantic, which is clearly moving upwards and has an incredible reputation, to the Daily Beast? DB just doesn't have the same name as the Atlantic; does Sullivan not care about that? Is he confident enough that his reputation will only boost DB's? In his goodbye post, he writes about how excited he is about the Newsweek and DB merge, and that this experiment in online media and journalism is "just too fascinating and exciting a challenge to pass up," but I'm a bit skeptical.

Second, with that having been said, and with Sullivan's admiration for the Atlantic (and he mentioned in his goodbye post and in many posts in the past), why specifically would he want to leave? Forget about the appeal of experimenting with online media (sheesh, speaking of nerds...), what were problems as the Atlantic that encouraged him to find a better deal? Did he not have enough freedom to write what he pleased, to hire whomever he wanted for the Dish, etc.? It doesn't seem like it, and he's never mentioned having a problem there. But who knows? There are always internal politics at play.

Third, it's clear that the Atlantic will take a hit without the traffic from Andrew's millions of visitors. That saddens me. As a follower of multiple Atlantic blogs (Jeffrey Goldberg and Ta-Nehisi Coates are two of my favorites), what will happen to the blogging world of the Atlantic? How much traffic will they lose? Will great bloggers now aspire to go to the Daily Beast? ...Seriously?

Lastly, and I think, most importantly, Sullivan and the Dish had a huge impact on the Atlantic, and really shaped the direction it has taken in the past few years. What happens now, both for the Atlantic and for DB? Mikey asked, "is this a harbinger of making Newsweek more like the Atlantic, or making Sullivan more like Newsweek?" My guess is that Sullivan will be Sullivan, and that DB and Newsweek will either shape himself to be more like him, or just let him be to do his thing. It's hard to attempt a guess about the shifts the Atlantic might take.

As always, looking for feedback!

(Oh, and seeing this is a post about blogging- mazal tov to me! Last week I finally hit 200 blogs on my RSS feed!)

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