The Atlantic announced that Nicholas Thompson, the editor in chief of Wired, will become its CEO in the new year. Thompson will begin as CEO in February 2021.
In their announcement to The Atlantic’s staff, owners Laurene Powell Jobs and David Bradley wrote: “Nick is singular; we've seen no one like him. As to leading and supporting Atlantic strategy, Nick brings a surround-sound coverage of relevant experience. Having been an editor, he is committed to the undergirding tenets of our work––superior editorial standards and complete editorial independence.” They continued: “While this is a significant appointment for our 163-year-old magazine, it is also a consequential turn in Nick's career. Nick is making the decision to move from the editorial side of media to the business side. Likely, Nick’s pivot sets him on a new career course. The Atlantic has been here before, enjoying success in making business stars out of editorial leaders; we have confidence that, in Nick, this will be done again.”
Powell Jobs and Bradley also announced a formalization and expansion of The Atlantic’s board of directors and changes to their respective leadership roles. Michelle Ebanks, the former CEO of Essence Communications, will join the board as the first fully outside director. One or two additional directors will be added in the coming year. Powell Jobs, the president of Emerson Collective, will become chair of the board in January 2021, and Peter Lattman, managing director of media at Emerson, will continue as a director. Bradley will become chairman emeritus, and remain minority owner of the company, as he steps back from day-to-day management. Both Thompson and The Atlantic’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, will report directly to the board.
As CEO, Thompson will lead The Atlantic’s business strategy, working with the teams overseeing corporate services; advertising; and product, engineering, and growth. This year, The Atlantic has broadened and deepened its client partnerships and is on track to equal last year’s advertising revenue despite the challenges of the pandemic. Thompson will also drive The Atlantic's accelerated pursuit of digital subscriptions and consumer revenue. The Atlantic has now surpassed 700,000 total subscribers––gaining more than 400,000 subscribers since the launch of its paywall 14 months ago––with a goal of reaching 1 million subscribers by the end of 2022. Thompson will work from The Atlantic’s New York office, and the company will continue to have a significant presence in Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Thompson has been a fierce advocate for journalism and innovation in his 15 years at Condé Nast. He helped lead two magazines’ digital-subscription strategies, first as editor of the website of The New Yorker, and more recently in the top editorial role at Wired. During his tenure, readership at NewYorker.com rose almost sevenfold. At Wired, digital subscriptions have risen by roughly 300 percent under his leadership. He helped launch the Get Wired app and podcast as well as the magazine’s fast-growing affiliate-revenue business and its annual Wired25 event. His reporting on Facebook was a finalist for a 2020 Loeb Award.
“Intensely reported journalism is essential for civil society, and smart business models are essential to support intensely reported journalism,” Thompson says. “I’ve loved getting to work to build out the businesses at The New Yorker and Wired, and it’s an honor to have the chance to do so again at The Atlantic.”
“Nick is one of the great innovators in journalism, and I have enormous confidence that he will guide this company to a new era of subscription and reader growth, technological creativity, and business success,” Jeffrey Goldberg says.
Under Goldberg’s editorial leadership, The Atlantic’s journalism has brought searing clarity to one of the most trying times in modern history, earning widespread recognition and record audiences for its exacting coverage of the pandemic and of the threats to our democracy. The Atlantic’s magazine and website were chosen as the year’s best by Adweek, which also selected Goldberg as its editor of the year. Magazine cover stories have been prescient, sounding an early warning about the rise of QAnon and conspiracy thinking; predicting the exact postelection actions of the president; and exposing the complicity of Trump’s enablers. In October came the launch of Planet, a guide to life on a warming planet. Early 2021 will see, among other endeavors, a new weekly podcast with WNYC Studios called The Experiment, and expanded coverage of culture and the experiences of being American.
Message to The Atlantic’s Staff
From Laurene Powell Jobs and David G. Bradley
Our Atlantic Colleagues,
After a year-long search, we are pleased to announce that we have asked Nick Thompson, the editor in chief of Wired magazine, to serve as The Atlantic's CEO. Nick has been with Condé Nast for 15 years, earlier as editor of the website at The New Yorker and, most recently, for four years, as editor of Wired. As Atlantic CEO, Nick will be responsible for the strategy and business of the publication, and for the whole staff, save for our editorial rank.
More Unique than Just Uncommon
The search for our CEO felt all but exhaustive. Before the pandemic struck in early March, we had conducted 107 in-person conversations with a diverse set of both advisors and candidates. Since then, and through zoom, we have consulted another 28 individuals. We personally sourced an additional 206 individuals. Then, using two search firms, we reviewed another 382 potential candidates in and around media.
As you get to know Nick, we think you, too, will get a sense of this – uncommon talent doesn't quite get at it. Nick is singular; we've seen no one like him.
As to leading and supporting Atlantic strategy, Nick brings a surround-sound coverage of relevant experience. Having been an editor, he is committed to the under-girding tenets of our work - superior editorial standards and complete editorial independence. Nick has helped lead two magazine paywall launches including, though this is hard to admit, the admirably-smart and successful paywall at The New Yorker. His resulting experience working with product and engineering teams is highly uncommon, especially among editors. Supporting the publishing staff, Nick has given dozens of speeches to advertisers and been part of the team pitching scores of packages to potential clients. Nick has led Wired and The New Yorker programming at some of the country's largest festivals including CES, SXSW, and The World Economic Forum. And, central to The Atlantic, Nick has experience in building diverse teams.
It is hard to overstate Nick's intensity. We think you will see this in the detail that follows and, like us, imagine what this could mean for The Atlantic. Nick was a triple major at Stanford where he founded a thought-leader newspaper, supporting it with his own ad sales. Separately, and years later, Nick co-founded The Atavist, a software firm and National Magazine Award-winning digital publication. Nick took up guitar and went on to record three albums of instrumental acoustic guitar music. Nick took up running. Now, he is one of the 30 fastest Masters Marathoners in the world.
Should you want to know Nick more closely, there is a good deal to learn from his writing. Visiting North Africa after college graduation, Nick was kidnapped by drug dealers immediately after stepping foot on Moroccan soil. Nick wrote of this experience in a Washington Post article, "Continental Drift." More significant, Nick wrote a joint biography, The Hawk and the Dove, about the two towering intellectuals of the cold war – George Kennan and Paul Nitze. (Nick is one of Nitze's 11 grandchildren.) Nick's most-personal, even raw, writing is this year's story in Wired: "To Run My Best Marathon at age 44, I had to Outrun My Past." Ending lighter, though the article is not about him, Nick assigned and edited the Wired story, "How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran," that, later, became the Academy Awards best picture, Argo.
Nick lives in (and will remain in) Brooklyn with his wife and three school-age sons. Nick's wife, Danielle Goldman, is a tenured professor of dance history at The New School.
The Appointment in Detail
In making this appointment, we asked Nick to take on full P&L (profit & loss) responsibility for The Atlantic. Nick will lead our growth strategy and the whole of our business staff – publishing (marketing, advertising, consulting, events) under Hayley Romer, and our product, engineering and growth teams under Betsy Cole and Sam Rosen. Nick will lead finance through his direct report, Ben McKee. And, Nick will lead the corporate staffs, the larger number reporting through Aretae Wyler.
Nick will report directly to The Atlantic board of directors. In parallel, our editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, will report directly to the board. So much of the work to be done turns on cooperation between Nick's business staff and Jeff's editorial staff. Recently, Jeff and Nick have talked about the prospect of Nick joining us and how they might work in partnership. For our part, Laurene and David, we will do all we can to support these two first-tier leaders as they plan The Atlantic's future.
While this is a significant appointment for our 163-year-old magazine, it is also a consequential turn in Nick's career. Nick is making the decision to move from the editorial side of media to the business side. Likely, Nick's pivot sets him on a new career course. The Atlantic has been here before, enjoying success in making business stars out of editorial leaders; we have confidence that, in Nick, this will be done again.
Formalizing Atlantic Governance
Of late, and in parallel with the search, we have begun formalizing the governance structure of The Atlantic. To date, our board of directors has been, largely, a group of us on the inside of Emerson and Atlantic Media including the two of us, Laurene and David, and Emerson Collective's Peter Lattman. This is changing. To begin, Laurene will step forward as board chair.
Further, we are announcing the first of what will be two or three new directors. We have asked Michelle Ebanks, recent CEO of Essence Communications, to be the first fully-outside director. Michelle, a famous talent in the magazine world, came up through the executive corridors of Condé Nast and Time Inc. At her creative best, Michelle grew and led the annual Essence Music Festival, one of the largest music and culture festivals in the U.S. We are deeply grateful to have Michelle with us.
With Nick's appointment, David will step back from line leadership. He will remain Laurene's partner – minority partner – in owning The Atlantic. And, he will remain active on the board. To the extent that he can be helpful, likely in matters of culture, recruiting, and retention – and offering a presence in Washington, he is all in.
We both want to reference here what David will detail in a subsequent writing – the centrality of Michael Finnegan. While it is true that David has been deeply involved in The Atlantic, it is Michael who has done the day-to-day management on behalf of the board. Michael will help Nick for three months as he, Nick, settles into the new job. Thereafter, Michael will rejoin David with his current and future businesses.
A Very Good Hour
By way of appreciation to you all, we want to note that Nick is joining The Atlantic in one of the best hours in its 16 decades of publishing. As of November 3rd at 1:00 pm, The Atlantic passed 400,000 new subscriptions in the 14 months of our paywall. Two weeks later, Hayley was inducted into the Advertising Federation Hall of Achievement, receiving the ad industry's highest honor. Jeff was selected by AdWeek as editor of the year, our magazine as magazine of the year, and our website as website of the year. The journalism has been peerless – best in the nation and our own personal best.
We will not see Nick immediately; he will honor his commitments to Condé Nast and take a few days for his family before joining us in February. We have waited a long time for Nick Thompson to appear. With anticipation, we can wait a few more days.
With our appreciation to you all.
Laurene Powell Jobs David G. Bradley
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