With the rise of Substack and other newsletter platforms, many journalists are leaving established publishers to write independently. At the same time, many publishers are shifting content (including newsletters) behind paywalls in order to support subscription-based business models. The Atlantic decided to launch a suite of newsletters just for paying subscribers, bringing new writers to The Atlantic while still allowing them independence.
We conceptualized subscriber newsletters as part of The Atlantic brand, but bolder and less refined, since the offering is semi-independent from The Atlantic’s editorial team. I incorporated our existing typography system (a major part of The Atlantic brand), while differentiating subscriber newsletters with a unique header system and background color. The modular header system allows writers a space to customize their individual publications within the suite – which is especially important to the several writers who moved an existing newsletter under The Atlantic’s brand.
Our priority for this project was to grow our newsletter email lists, assuming that non-subscribing newsletter readers will convert to paying Atlantic subscribers in the future. For this reason, leadership decided to launch with a “free period” of full access to subscriber newsletters for everyone (not just subscribers). And after the free period, anyone can still sign up for occasional “free editions” of subscriber newsletters (again, not just subscribers). Lastly, adding to this complexity, The Atlantic continues to offer a separate suite of “always free” newsletters.
Obviously, this is a complicated model to convey to readers – especially readers new to The Atlantic. I focused on simplifying the newsletter sign up flow, balancing usability with our marketing team’s desire to “upsell” Atlantic subscriptions throughout. I also advocated for user testing before launch, which helped us to refine our messaging – a major factor in the user experience of this product.
In a previous project, I mentored a mid-level designer on the team in creating a design system for all of The Atlantic’s newsletters in order to bring all of our newsletters in line with The Atlantic’s recent rebrand. When we decided to expand to paid newsletters for this project, our design system facilitated this expansion – standardizing subscriber newsletters with our existing free newsletters, while also allowing us to incorporate intentional differences like the unique background color and newsletter header.
We successfully launched The Atlantic’s suite of subscriber newsletters in eight weeks. Of our subscriber newsletter recipients, more than half are new Atlantic readers – who we now have the opportunity to convert into paying Atlantic subscribers.