Inside Atlantic Media’s “Unique, Content-Rich” Dinner Events

Zachary Roth of TPM Muckraker advances the ball on the WaPo “salon” story today, noting that Atlantic Media has been hosting similar private, off-the-record events for some time. Roth’s got the goods in the form of a flier advertising one of the events, but turns out these weren’t a secret. From a BizBash interview last November with Elizabeth Baker Keffer, head of Atlantic Live, the event arm of Atlantic Media:

How do you increase brand awareness?

We think that Atlantic Live has had a major impact in promoting Atlantic’s name, since we always have our talent at the center. At the larger public events we get more media attention, like the Aspen Ideas Festival in June, where we had [Secretary of Homeland Security] Michael Chertoff interviewed by our national correspondent, Jeffrey Goldberg, in front of 1,000 people. It’s a way to give our talent and editorial a larger stage.

The smaller events that we’re getting well known for are the salon dinners [for 20 to 25]. It’s hard for us to promote those, because they’re by and large off the record. But there is always such a highly influential audience that attends that we feel like, even in a small circle, we’re reaching important people and increasing our exposure.

What has been the response to the salons from sponsors and advertisers?

A senior-level client will usually get the fact that there are some audiences that are hard to reach. But if you can create an experience that is unique and content-rich, it’s attractive to that audience. They immediately get that being a part of Atlantic is a way to be subtle about their outreach and about building very strong relationships. We also don’t want to take on dozens of partners, because we think part of the beauty of this is the feeling of exclusivity. We’d rather work with the same partners on multiple events across a several-year stretch, because we think that’s the right way to have an impact, since the dinners touch so few people at the same time.

A former publisher of The Atlantic Monthly, Keffer was appointed to head up Atlantic Live in late 2007. As BizBash reported at the time:

“We have a really great footprint in Washington, thanks to our many publications, and we’re able to draw speakers, members of Congress, trade-association executives, lobbyists, think-tank members, etc.,” she said. “We’re at that nexus to help advertisers produce targeted events to get visibility with congressmen and women—decision makers in Washington. The sweet spot for us is 25-to-75-person thoughtful conversation events, be it a speaker panel or an intimate dinner.”

In both items, Keffer notes that revenue from Atlantic events—apparently including the Aspen Ideas Festival, the company’s high-profile, on-the-record gathering—runs into seven figures. Live events now account for almost a quarter of the company’s advertising revenue.

(H/t to commenter Dalybean on The Atlantic’s Politics blog.)

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.