Atlantic Cities changes name to CityLab, makes ‘lifestyle play’

The Atlantic Cities relaunched as CityLab Friday. “Part of the feeling was we wanted to give this site its own identity that would let it keep growing,” CityLab Editor Sommer Mathis said in a phone call with Poynter. “And frankly, I just liked this name so much better.”

The new nameplate brings Cities, a publication beloved by urban planners, into line with an event The Atlantic, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Aspen Institute hosted last fall (there will be another CityLab event this fall). The rebranded publication is not dropping its affiliation with The Atlantic — “I still report to [Atlantic Editor-in-Chief and Co-President] James Bennet, and we’re all still here on the same floor” — and the famous urbanist Richard Florida is still listed as cofounder and editor-at-large. “He’s still as involved, and he’s still going to be a leading voice on the site,” Mathis said.

Libby Bawcombe redesigned the site (Atlantic Creative Director Darhil Crooks made its logo). It’s responsive, with a larger typeface and a less-cluttered article page, and it features a page called “CityFixer” that collects articles about sub-verticals like waste, schools, streets and mass transit under brightly colored tiles. CityLab is also throwing reporting resources at climate coverage, via its reporters — it has eight people in editorial now, with one or two hires planned in the near future — and The Atlantic’s partnership in the Climate Desk consortium.

CityLab is also adding what Mathis calls a “new layer of content” called Navigator. “It’s a bit of a lifestyle play,” she said, aimed at city residents with articles today on “How Not to Lock a Bike Like an Idiot” (wheel, frame and seat need a cable through them, NYC friends) and a guide to romance for tiny-house dwellars (“Tip #5: Consider thinking through what might happen after a break-up in advance”).

The publication doesn’t plan to tack too severely toward city-magazine content: “I’m not superinterested in running ‘The Top 10 Mojitos’ lists, and we’re not going to be doing best brunch in Wichita,” Mathis said. Navigator will have product recommendations under its “Stuff” category and an etiquette section. It will be “service and lifestyle coverage that has a bit of an Atlantic feel to it,” Mathis said.

Multiple Washington, D.C.-area disclosures: I used to work with Mathis at TBD.com, and my wife is a freelance fact-checker who does work for The Atlantic. And Friday afternoon I found out while picking my kids up from school that my youngest son’s soccer coach is Libby Bawcombe’s brother-in-law.

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