For nearly half of our existence, since 1937, The Atlantic has relied on brand advertising to help support our journalism. Alongside the writing of Walter Lippmann and Gertrude Stein were ads from brands like General Motors and American Express.
As we moved into the 21st century, many print magazines found themselves on the verge of extinction as consumer behaviors changed and news and analysis became readily available online—on demand and at no cost. The Atlantic embraced those changes and chose distribution over subscriptions. We invested in our journalism and underwrote it with digital advertising. And it worked. In the past five years, digital advertising has been The Atlantic’s single largest source of income, enabling us to grow and invest even more in our future.
But the same technological evolution that helped us reach new audiences has also made it possible for people to restrict our revenue with the use of ad blockers. We have spent the past 12 months monitoring, testing, and listening to our readers to understand the reasons behind that behavior: In a lot of ad-blocking people’s minds, security, privacy, and inconvenient user experiences seem to justify bypassing ads.
Yet for our publication to continue to grow and be sustainable, we need to create an environment where readers can accept and feel good about ads alongside our work—or else support it in alternative ways.
So today we’re rolling out a series of initiatives aimed at continuing to improve the security and user experience of our website, along with a new ad-free subscription option. Here are a few things we’re doing to make TheAtlantic.com a great experience for all visitors:
- Ongoing work to improve page speed, performance, and advertising integrations
- Going “secure” with a site-wide transition to HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) by the end of 2016
- Employing third-party ad monitoring that will continuously scan ad tags for things like malware
Visitors to our site who use an ad or script blocker will now see a message offering two options: Whitelist The Atlantic, or purchase an ad-free subscription. While we’re in beta, we won’t prevent ad-block users from continuing to read The Atlantic. But our intention is to soon ask ad-block users to make a choice.
The Atlantic depends on our readers’ support to ensure that our legacy of meaningful journalism is continued for another 159 years. So please send me your thoughts and concerns. What can we do better? Where are our blind spots? I look forward to hearing from you: firstname.lastname@example.org.