The Atlantic has launched a new family section, to which it’s taking an expansive, multiplatform approach, reflecting the publisher’s focus on building direct connections with readers in a post-Facebook news feed era.
The section is the first big editorial initiative by The Atlantic, now majority owned by Laurene Powell Jobs, since the publisher announced plans to grow the staff by 100 people (30 percent) overall over the next year to 18 months, with as much as half going to editorial.
Family is staffed by a five-person desk. Its coverage will run across the site and magazine, but also have a presence in The Atlantic’s podcasts, live events and video.
“We have a cross-platform mentality across our sections for sure, but we did see this as an opportunity to go all out,” said Adrienne LaFrance, editor of TheAtlantic.com. ”It’s a doubling down.”
Family will have a public Facebook group and its own newsletter, two firsts for The Atlantic and a direct indication of its recent push to connect directly with readers as it looks to grow reader revenue by boosting subscriptions and involvement in its Masthead membership program. Other publishers have launched Facebook groups to form tighter connections with small groups of readers, recognizing more engaged readers are more likely to become subscribers.
“Obviously, pages on Facebook are being downplayed in the algorithm,” said Caitlin Frazier, head of social and audience at The Atlantic. “So we started looking at groups because it allows for more community and more semblances of privacy and sharing experiences.”
As for the editorial scope, the family section will take an expansive view of American family life, looking at the cultural, political and economic forces at hand. The section kicked off with pieces on the changing attitudes toward child rearing and a parent’s reflection on teaching his child about racism. LaFrance said The Atlantic isn’t new to covering the family, pointing to a 1932 piece by Helen Keller on the effect of machines on housework and others that have examined family roles.
“We see this as a continuation of a tradition but also bringing it into the current media ecosystem,” she said.