Consultancy Founder Devotes Himself To Remaking Atlantic Media Online

David G. Bradley hopes to create an online empire with his Atlantic Media properties as a base.
David G. Bradley hopes to create an online empire with his Atlantic Media properties as a base. (By Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)
By Thomas Heath
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 12, 2007

David G. Bradley likes to say he has had three large pursuits in life. The first two were the Corporate Executive Board and the Advisory Board, Washington companies that ascended by advising other firms on how to compete in business. They made him more than $300 million.

At 54, Bradley no longer has any association with the two companies. But he is using the things he learned from those endeavors and applying them to his third and latest undertaking, the Atlantic Media holding company, whose centerpiece is a respected if cerebral, 150-year-old, money-losing monthly, Atlantic magazine. His latest project: take a group of properties founded on a 19th-century brand and leverage them to a robust, online presence.

Atlantic Media plans to create at least two Web initiatives over the next year that will focus on the worlds of business and lifestyle and appeal to the same wealthy, educated audience that follows the Atlantic and its fellow publication, the National Journal, Bradley said this weekend.

He aims to expand the media company by using Atlantic's brand for serious journalism as a magnet for online talent.

"Success here is going to turn on our ability to spot and attract talent," Bradley said. "I've always thought that my personal gift is I'm good at spotting gifts in other people. I can see when people are really gifted, and I want to be part of making this a great talent destination."

Bradley, who is pouring millions of dollars into the new venture, says he wants to recruit a cadre of uber-experts to form what he calls the Atlantic Society, "where we will find 300 of the smartest human beings across the main intellectual terrains we're likely to cover and to go out and ask them, would they be essayists for the Atlantic?"

Bradley and Atlantic editor James Bennet are researching which bloggers to hire and what journalistic personalities would fit the bill for Atlantic online. One Web site is sure to focus on lifestyle, with generous coverage of wine, food and travel.

The new content would supplement that of the Atlantic and National Journal, said Bradley, who is the company's chairman and sole owner.

"The largest ambition is to be the center of where you go for the smartest take on whatever is happening," he said on Saturday, sitting in his Atlantic office at the Watergate eight floors above the Potomac River. "Clearly, global news, which is where our Atlantic strength is. Politics. I think we're going to have to trespass into business. We'd love to do a land grab on the business terrain."

The company already has three Web sites, under the Atlantic, National Journal and Government Executive brands. The new coverage could be folded into those sites or be presented on new Web sites.

Atlantic Media is a private company and profitable, thanks to the National Journal, a political publication with a Capitol Hill readership, which commands subscription fees of $1,600 a year. The Atlantic, with a circulation around 400,000, is known for its lengthy original reports that run to thousands of words. It has lost $12 million in its worst years under Bradley but should lose less than $5 million this year, he said.

With old media under siege for years, Bradley, who bought his properties in the 1990s, once thought of putting his media interests on hold to pursue other ventures such as hotels, for-profit education and adult higher learning. To figure out what to do next, he said, he devoured 2,000 pages of research on a few industries and conducted a series of interviews. He then retired last summer to his house near Provence, France, for a week's reflection. That's when he had what he calls "an acute moment."

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