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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)

While musing over his options at a cafe, his wife, Katherine, interjected: "You have work to do in Washington. Just go do your duty," Bradley recalled.

"You never know what's going to be the blinding light," Bradley said. "But suddenly, it was that moment. And I came back saying I love doing this. Let's just take it in earnest now."

Bradley lives off Massachusetts Avenue in Northwest D.C. with his wife and three children. He started his first companies in 1979 on the idea that he could build a business around the information that was available in Washington and through the federal government. By 2001, both the Corporate Executive Board and the Advisory Board had gone public and Bradley had sold his stock, pushing his net worth well above $300 million.

By then, his media career was well underway. He purchased the National Journal in 1997, and in 1999, he bought the Atlantic from real estate billionaire Mortimer B. Zuckerman. Each cost about $11 million. Bradley moved the Atlantic from its longtime home in Boston to an office building he owns at the Watergate complex.

He dove into the online world last fall with what he calls "a research and extreme talent tour of the Internet world." He spent four months visiting Web sites of major publications such as USA Today, the New York Times and Business Week. He talked to bloggers and online personalities around the country. He visited investor conferences and heard talk of old media. He learned that the Atlantic's home page stood still all day while Bloomberg's was updated 90 times.

"There's talk in the investment community that there are only four great newspapers left in the United States: The Washington Post, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today. And between those properties and the online services, the rest of the newspaper world gets just utterly marginalized, is the way the chat goes," he said.

Asked if he was concerned that recruiting 300 new contributors to an online enterprise could compromise Atlantic Media's reputation for quality, Bradley said success would come down to the standards he sets for talent.

"James Bennet and I have about 40 blogs that we're supposed to read across the next few weeks where we would want our brand associated with their writing. Going back to my days at the Executive Board and right up to my involvement in journalism, I love the process of creating a culture of great talent. That's what I do for a living."

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