Addressing 500 delegates in the first session this morning, Smith quite rightly boasted The Atlantic’s 25 million monthly readership – a figure the company has seen double in the last year. He puts this success down to the Atlantic Media’s “obsession” with focusing on innovation and “thinking like a start-up”. Speaking about the company’s decision to go ‘digital first’ (which is SO 2007, according to Smith), he said that there is no “newness” in any strategy, and that “it is about how well you integrate and execute that strategy”. This certainly seems to have worked, as the brand has achieved explosive traffic growth – bigger outside the US than The Economist, according to ComScore.
One thing that really resonated in Smith’s speech was the need for talent. “A significant commitment to talent is so important”, said Smith. When the company launched its new title, Quartz, just four months ago, it hired the Wall Street Journal’s website editor to lead the charge. “We have taken world class journalism and integrated it onto new platform”, said Smith, who hinted that Quartz is considering building an events platform. The pace of growth of Quartz has been tremendous, with 60 per cent of its readers located in the US and the rest outside. “Social media has lowered the barriers”, said Smith, “which has allowed us to build the brand in other countries and get significant advertising at a higher CPM level”.
“Media does not have to be a death-watch or a downward spiral”, Smith concluded. Encouraging others to take the same approach as Atlantic Media, he continued: “It’s up to you to decide what to do, and attack yourselves. If you protect yourselves, you will not survive. As difficult as it is, you will transform your business, culture, talent and you will see real revenue growth.”