May 18, 2017

Last week (can you believe it?) President Trump fired FBI Director Jim Comey.

Within about 48 hours, The Atlantic had at least 30 original pieces about the news. An in-depth comparison to Watergate by James Fallows. Analysis of the decision by David Frum. A longread from Rosie Gray and McKay Coppins that depicted a White House teetering on the edge of chaos.

There was one problem: The Atlantic’s homepage could only fit seven stories “above the fold.”

“We’ve reached sufficient size and velocity that when there is an overwhelmingly important story in the world, we can flood the zone,” said Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor of The Atlantic. “And I want the website to be able to absorb the flood.”

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That will be easier beginning today. The Atlantic this morning unveiled a redesigned homepage that applies its “real-time magazine” philosophy to a news cycle that’s spinning faster than journalists can type.

The homepage now has room for double the amount of stories above the fold and the ability to feature stories from different sections of the website, Goldberg said. That means, even when there’s a “Trump-related explosion,” he and his colleagues can showcase a broader swath of the magazine’s work.

The Atlantic’s months-long redesign process foregrounds a belief that news homepages are actually important, a concept that has been challenged time and again as search engines and social networks have become the dominant methods for discovering news.

But Goldberg thinks that conventional wisdom is facile. Although he declined to spell out exactly how much of The Atlantic’s traffic comes through its homepage, he says that “thousands” of readers are visiting it “at any given moment.” Plus, the readers who are visiting the homepage are among the most loyal, Goldberg said. So, they’re worth paying attention to.

Not only that, but the homepage offers readers a rare snapshot of the news that’s curated by human editors rather than a social algorithm. A dense cluster of 14 headlines above the fold offers a better snapshot than one, two or seven.

“Density does two things,” Goldberg said. “One: It actually gives people an efficient overview of what The Atlantic is offering them at any given moment. It’s also a signaling device, in the following sense: When we can feature 14 stories in different ways above the fold, I think we’re signaling to the readers: We are a serious, well-staffed, experienced, discerning journalism operation.”

The homepage redesign also prominently features The Atlantic’s writing staff, which Goldberg says is important given the premium that the magazine puts on its journalists.

Whether they’re videographers, editors, writers or visual artists, Goldberg wants to make sure their work is represented in some way on the homepage.

“At our core is a magazine,” Goldberg said. “And I never want the reader to forget that.”

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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