‘Atlantic Wire’ relaunches as ‘The Wire’

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The Wire. ()
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Website relaunches are notorious for creating headaches in the days and hours before they go live, between staff training, functionality testing and inevitable last minute design fixes.

But the relaunch of The Atlantic Wire as The Wire had Atlantic Media executives reaching for the Asprin months ago.

"Getting thewire.com was not easy," company president M. Scott Havens told Capital.

For years, said Havens, it was owned by a broker in Europe who was more or less sitting on the tony online real estate until a buyer came along with an offer not to be refused.

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Atlantic Media's winning bid was "over five and less than seven figures," Havens said when we pressed him for the dollar amount, adding: "It took months to negotiate."

Havens and his team are enjoying the fruits of those negotiations this morning with the relaunch of their high-octane news aggregator, which is finally getting a singular brand identity after being titularly attached for more than four years to the company's flagship current affairs magazine, The Atlantic.

As Capital first reported last month, The Atlantic Wire has decided to shorten its name in a bid to drum up new advertising opportunities as its parent company builds out a stable of distinct digital news titles in areas ranging from finance to defense. In addition to its core print and web-based properties, Atlantic Media also publishes the global business website Quartz, the military focused digital destination Defense One and the online urban-planning hub Atlantic Cites.

To attract new clients, The Wire is being given its own sales team of three reps, to start. For the most part, the site was previously pitched as a bonus buy for companies selling against the core title.

Havens said that by isolating The Wire, whose 15-person newsroom generates roughly 50 articles every weekday, Atlantic Media was creating new opportunities for the site to work with a broader array of advertising categories.

For instance, he said, entertainment brands like HBO and Showtime might be more interested in reaching The Wire's younger digital demographic than the comparatively fogeyish intellectuals who have historically flocked to The Atlantic.

The Wire is also introducing a native advertising product called BrandBoost that "enables advertisers to natively integrate their social-media content into The Wire’s site," according to a news release. As for traditional banner advertising, Cadillac is the exclusive launch sponsor.

"We found that from a business standpoint, the site has outgrown its sibling stature," said Havens, who pointed to the roughly 6 million unique monthly users visiting the site on average this year, according to company metrics tracked by the online analytics company Omniture.

Havens would not discuss revenue figures. But he said The Wire is "around a break-even product" and that "there was a belief that we could accelerate that by putting some dedicated resources on it." His hope is to double the size of the sales, marketing and editorial teams over the next 18 months.

Functionally speaking, the biggest change is a move to a responsive-design template that will appeal to mobile users, who now comprise approximately 40 percent of The Wire's traffic, according to the company.

The homepage navigation bar is organized by news topics as opposed to subject verticals; the verticals, like politics, entertainment, etc., can now be accessed by clicking on a ribbon at the top right-hand side of the page. The bottoms of article pages repeat the front-page grid to provide more entry points to users arriving via social media.

"Our hope is that this design helps us to convert that side-door, first time visitor and to reward them with a deeper, more complex experience," Gabriel Snyder, The Wire's editor-in-chief, told Capital.

We also couldn't help asking Snyder for a comment on the deluge of "Omar" jokes that poured in after we initially broke the news about the site's name change.

"I'm a huge fan of the HBO show and I wish it were still on the air," he said.