Exclusive: Ex-Gawker Guy Snyder to Head Atlantic Wire, New Manhattan Staff

Former Gawker editor-in-chief Gabriel Snyder has been tapped to run The Atlantic Wire and build up a news aggregation staff in New York, as the 154-year-old magazine continues to carve out a home on the web.

“There’s been no doubt that the Atlantic has been very nimbly handling the delicate maneuver of bringing a 150-year-old plus brand into the digital world,” Mr. Snyder told The Observer. The Atlantic will announce the hire later today.

He’ll head up only The Atlantic Wire, the company’s aggregation site — not theatlantic.com, home to Andrew Sullivan, Megan McArdle, James Fallows, and up-and-comers Alexis Madrigal and Alan Taylor.

Mr. Snyder, a former writer at Variety, W and The Observer, moved to New York to work as editor-in-chief of Gawker in 2008, replacing Nick Denton after one of the site owner’s editing stints. After traffic doubled, Mr. Denton abruptly fired him in February 2010. Newsweek hired Mr. Snyder to run its web site later that year, but with the magazine up for sale, he lasted only five months on the job.

At The Atlantic Wire, which has focused on aggregating the world of op-eds and talking heads since launching in July 2009, Mr. Snyder will add news aggregation to further give what was once a stodgy monthly a prominent say on the headlines of the hour. Though the magazine and theatlantic.com are based in Washington, Mr. Snyder will work from New York and expects to hire 15 young aggregators to work from here. The site will relaunch in March. Part of the idea, he told The Observer, is to bring more of a New York tone to an outfit that for the first century and a half of its life was Boston Brahmin, then veered towards the Beltway.

“For the same reason that a lot of places based in New York want a DC bureau, because they want people steeped in the culture of DC, I think this will bring [to DC] people who are more attuned to what’s going on in New York,” Mr. Snyder said.

Can the high-minded brand fit in here? Last week, the Atlantic hosted a State of the Union viewing party at Le Cirque. The Observer, expecting to find the wonky likes of Bob Shrum, instead plopped down next to Gayle King, Mark Ecko, Peggy Siegal, and the somewhat perplexed star of Law & Order: SVU.

The Atlantic’s owner, David Bradley, is enjoying a run of good press. The magazine finally turned a $1.9 million profit in 2010, in part by embracing digital platforms that other titles regarded in horror. The company will announce tomorrow that its web properties drew more than 5 million unique visitors in January, a new high.

“It’s amazing how what was perceived as a kind of dowdy old brand is growing really quickly and expanding its audiences,” Justin Smith, the Atlantic‘s president, told The Observer.

Mr. Snyder replaces Ben Carlson, who left to join Rupert Murdoch’s iPad-only news project, The Daily, which is set to launch this week.

The plan is to have Mr. Snyder’s new hires work out of the Madison Avenue office where the Atlantic‘s sales staff lives, he said. Nine Atlantic Wire staffers now work from Washington. Fifteen more is a big number — and another sign that while entry-level gigs in journalism are still hard to come by, where they are to be found, they’re mostly in aggregation.

“Yeah, I think that coming in and doing curation and aggregation in many ways is the new ‘go out to a small paper and earn your stripes covering the school board,'” Bob Cohn, the editorial director of Atlantic Digital, told The Observer. Further up the career arc, in recent months he has snagged Alan Taylor and his beloved The Big Picture Blog from the Boston Globe, as well as Garance Franke-Ruta, who ran the WhoRunsGuv site for The Washington Post.

nsummers@observer.com | @nicksumm Exclusive: Ex-Gawker Guy Snyder to Head Atlantic Wire, New Manhattan Staff