• Trump called The Atlantic a 'dying' magazine following its story about disparaging comments he made about U.S. military service members
  • The Atlantic has gained over 20,000 new subscribers since the article, and more than 300,000 since it introduced its paywall last year
  • The Atlantic, which dates back to 1857, has found success by modernizing its magazine-only format for the digital era

The Atlantic, a magazine that Donald Trump wrote off as a “dying” publication, recently gained thousands of new subscribers after it published an explosive story that alleged the president disparaged American soldiers who died in war.

The Trump article, written by the publication’s editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg, led to the rapid and unexpected growth of subscriptions. Since the story’s release over the past weekend, The Atlantic earned more than 20,000 new subscribers, CNN reported.

Goldberg says he stand by the story, which used four unnamed sources to confirm Trump's disparaging remarks about fallen and captured members of the U.S. military. Multiple media outlets have confirmed parts of the article, while Trump called it a "fake story" by a "dying" magazine via Twitter.

The magazine, which has been around for 163 years, initially hoped to add 110,000 subscribers over the first two years after it introduced the paywall last year. But according to Atlantic Media President Michael Finnegan, the publication has already added 325,000 paid subscribers. Including existing subscribers, The Atlantic is now more than halfway to its goal of 1 million paid subscribers by the end of 2022.

An analysis conducted by Nieman Lab showed the company earned 36,000 new subscribers in March alone. The growth was mainly due to The Atlantic’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. Still, other topics such as its political coverage and its therapy and life advice column also contributed to the massive conversion.

The top six swing states in the 2020 US election were all won by President Donald Trump in 2016, but his Democratic challenger Joe Biden leads in each of them
The top six swing states in the 2020 US election were all won by President Donald Trump in 2016, but his Democratic challenger Joe Biden leads in each of them AFP / MANDEL NGAN

The Atlantic Monthly published its first issue in November 1857. The magazine aimed to include commentary on societal issues such as abolishing slavery. The company’s mission statement was signed by multiple literary figures, including Harriet Beecher Stowe and Herman Melville.

Over the past few years, The Atlantic embraced a digital transformation to cover today’s most pressing topics. The company introduced a paywall on last September to directly gain more revenue from readers instead of relying on digital advertising.

Goldberg, who became editor-in-chief in 2016 after working with the publication for nine years, said he wanted to take the magazine’s values and translate them onto different online platforms and streaming services like podcasts to close the gap between a magazine story and a digital-only story.

Goldberg attributed the magazine's success to their commitment to delivering quality journalism. "We have an advantage in that nobody comes to us looking for sports, traffic, or weather,” he told CNN news. “Our readers aren't expecting anything other than excellent stories about important subjects."