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article imageOp-Ed: Mashable promotes The Atlantic with erroneous audience figures

By Michael Krebs     May 13, 2012 in Internet
Mashable's Lauren Indvik released a story on The Atlantic last week that featured imaginative figures on The Atlantic's digital audience size, calling into question the journalistic integrity of the popular Mashable property.
In a recent story by Mashable's Lauren Indvik, the site's associate editor for marketing and media, The Atlantic's digital property was hailed as having grown its audiences from "approximately 500,000 to 13.4 million monthly visitors since taking down its paywall in early 2008."
Note the data Mashable cites is according to Omniture, not Nielsen.
However, the 13.4 million audience Mashable cited for The Atlantic is roughly 10 million too many. According to Nielsen's July-Sept 2011 release, digital reach is just a 3.5 million audience. Citing the same third party source, these figures put The Atlantic within an audience range that more accurately mirrors its thought leadership content. Consider where The Atlantic stands against its two main competitors:
The Atlantic: 3.5 million audience
Slate: 6.8 million audience
The Economist: 1.8 million audience
source: Nielsen @Plan Q3 2011
Given that Mashable is a site that is read widely by the advertising and marketing industry, this discrepancy in reporting, particularly from an associate editor focused as she is in marketing and media, is irresponsible. The erroneous figures, placed as they were in a popular site like Mashable and at a key time in the advertising business when the second half of 2012 is being planned and bought, calls into question Mashable's journalistic ethics.
In fact, the story of The Atlantic's "success" reads like a thinly veiled press release. The Atlantic Media Company is a privately held enterprise, so it is not possible for one to immediately discern the health of the company or of their revenue streams, but with an audience size measured more accurately by the industry-norm in Nielsen's release, the site simply does not have the scale to drive the type of revenue figures needed to match that of the magazine in prior years.
According to the Audit Bureau of Circulation in a Pew Research Report on the state of the news media in 2012, The Atlantic is identified as having suffered a magazine circulation drop, and it does not appear to climb above a circulation of 500,000 during a period when The Economist, its chief print competitor, has exploded to well over 750,000 in circulation.
Given these facts, how does Mashable conclude that The Atlantic is a success story?
Mashable's Lauren Indvik also quotes The Atlantic's online editor, Bob Cohn, on the editorial team's discovery of social media as a traffic driver versus growth strategies in search engine optimization.
“We’re no longer writing to get the attention of Google algorithms," Cohn told Indvik. "We’re writing to get you to share it, to digg it.”
Cohn's reference to Digg, the openly defunct content tool that just sold off their technology staff to the Washington Post Company, a fact that Indvik as associate editor of media and marketing at Mashable should have known and considered when quoting him, points painfully to his lack of current social media practices. And since the Mashable article focuses entirely on The Atlantic's social media prowess in moving their business forward, Cohn's assessment makes the matter even that much more incorrect.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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