The Atlantic’s new iOS app delivers a curated mini-magazine to your phone or tablet every morning. Open it, and you’ll find a friendly editor ready to guide you through the coming day. On a Monday morning, that might mean catching you up on a deluge of news; on a Saturday, it could be a list of long reads to devour over breakfast. Our iOS app changes with you.
We did not set out to build an app; our mandate was much broader. Our team wanted to create an entirely new way of experiencing The Atlantic’s journalism—something different from anything our readers had experienced before, something indispensable. And we took a reader-first approach: Whatever we made needed to feel accessible, and sensitive to the changing needs of readers throughout the week. Over a series of qualitative interviews, we listened to all the reasons people turn to The Atlantic every day: To try and make sense of the world. To discover new ideas. To challenge their assumptions. To take a meaningful break.
With those motivations as our compass, we challenged ourselves to make something that could help guide the modern reader through uncertain times. At the start of this project, we gave ourselves no limits on medium, shape, or size. We wanted to build something ambitious—but, mainly, we wanted to build something that our readers would find useful and delightful.
Our work began with the adoption of a user-centric design philosophy, as well as Agile methodologies—no small feat for a magazine that was born before the Civil War. Our reimagined iOS app, launched more than 160 years later, in late 2019, is the outcome of this philosophy.
The home screen is Today—a visual, daily guide to the ideas that matter, curated by Atlantic editors and updated with new stories each morning. Available to all readers with or without a subscription, Today is a work of journalism in its own right. The editors take readers on a narrative journey, writing conversationally to guide them through the stories of the day. Our product stands out in the field of news apps: It doesn’t just focus on what’s happening at a given moment, but pushes beyond to help readers understand the bigger questions and concepts at stake. In other words, it’s an ideas app—a product that can serve as the hub of a reader’s intellectual life.
Today gives users a focused way to access The Atlantic’s robust journalism, both recent and from deep in the magazine’s archives. From political analysis to poetry and podcasts to recommendations from our critics on what to watch during quarantine, the app’s editors try to meet the full spectrum of readers’ needs. Open a typical feed and you might find the latest on presidential politics, a gorgeous photo essay, an exploration of TikTok’s famous teens, and a look at Eddie Murphy’s comeback. And each story includes an estimated read time, so that busy readers can decide when they want to read, a feature we hear is especially loved and appreciated.
Our app’s design blends the elegance of our print magazine with fresh and colorful visuals made for mobile screens. The app wishes the reader a “good morning,” “good afternoon,” or “good evening,” depending on the reader’s time of day, with handwritten greetings from our creative director, Peter Mendelsund. The personalities of our editors bring a unique touch to every curated edition.
The Latest tab gives users a more scannable, efficient way to browse or binge our most recent work. We’ve heard from many readers that Today and Latest serve different but complementary purposes. App users have our archives at their fingertips and can save magazine editions dating back to 2004; they can also play our daily crossword, and receive push notifications for our most important stories. Users can read stories ad-free and offline for a premium Atlantic experience.
Our app has grown a significant new audience, reaching tens of thousands more users than the previous version (which was a standard news feed and replicas of our print edition). So far, the app has succeeded in helping our readers understand the value of our work, its breadth, and its relevance to them—and helping them form a personal, lasting relationship with The Atlantic.
Our product has successfully engaged both our longtime visitors and our newest subscribers. Our weekly audience has grown more than three times compared with that of the previous app. More than one-third of all app users visit three or more times a week, an astonishing rate of engagement for a magazine of ideas—and a strong indicator that we’ve accomplished our mission of making The Atlantic an intimate and manageable part of their daily routines. We regularly solicit and respond to reader input, sometimes featuring responses to prompts including individuals’ favorite stories.
On our Today tab, readers know they can find a story that matches whatever mood they’re in, and we see that reflected in the stories they visit. Whereas coverage of the coronavirus and the Trump presidency regularly dominate our website’s Most Popular list, we frequently see advice from our happiness columnist or an essay from our archives getting the most taps on Today.
In February 2020, The Atlantic was featured as Apple’s App of the Day in the App Store for its “stylish design and minimalist grace” and “smart, thoughtfully curated news.” But the recognition we’re proudest of comes from our readers. They tell us the app feels like a reprieve from the firehose of information and the curse of endless scrolling. “I love that it feels personal … It’s like a briefing without feeling like a briefing,” one reader said of the Today tab. Another said that Today “gives the sense The Atlantic cares about reader experience.”