July 14, 2021

UNEXPECTEDLY: The Atlantic thrived through Trump and the pandemic. The future is harder.

The Atlantic needs to make $50 million in annual subscription revenue in order to break even, according to Thompson. Hitting that target has become more complicated since Trump left the White House and the pandemic let up. New subscribers are coming in at about a quarter of the rate they did last year (10,000 a month, on average), and the magazine faces challenges keeping some of its existing audience, which may have less of a need for The Atlantic’s journalism in a post-Trump, post-Covid world.

“We did four years of business last year,” Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic’s editor-in-chief, said in an interview. “One of the core challenges is, how do we keep all those new subscribers?”

That is a challenge being felt throughout the news* industry. For the last six years, Trump’s chaotic candidacy and presidency provided a life raft for this industry, as did the pandemic. Cable news networks saw a surge in viewership while publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post enjoyed strong subscriber growth. But with Trump out of office and the pandemic in retreat, both television news viewership and digital and print readership are in decline — resuming a multidecade slide for the news business.

* Read: Democratic Party operatives with bylines. Going all-in with joyless megalomania means quite a crash when your opponent leaves office, as the post-Clinton American Spectator found out the hard way 20 years ago.

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