Four years is an eternity on the Internet. When we launched Atavist in 2011—and even more so when we conceived it in 2009—conventional wisdom held that “the death of longform” was imminent and “the end of the attention span” was upon us. We had a hunch that was bullshit. The hunch became a hypothesis: that the web could be about more than just clicks, that there was room for thoughtful design, in-depth stories, and innovative publications. So we built a software platform to make that all possible, and launched our own magazine to show how it could be done.
Tens of thousands of users and tens of millions of readers (theirs and ours) later, we’re proud to be pioneers in the movement toward a smarter, finer-looking web. From The California Sunday Magazine, to the Weather Channel, to the United Nations, to a student covering her school basketball team, the publications and writers using our platform have demonstrated that a new storytelling tool can empower an incredible array of brilliant work. With our own The Atavist Magazine—which recently became the first digital-only publication to win a National Magazine Award for feature writing, after being nominated eight times in categories ranging from reporting to multimedia—we’ve proven that a digital upstart can rival the most august media names in quality and depth.
Of course, the past recedes quickly in the digital media landscape. Elegant story design is no longer an outlier on the web these days; it’s the aspiration of every ambitious writer and publication. The idea of valuing actual readers over partial-second views has entered the mainstream. But nothing online is ever settled, and a quick look at your feeds will tell you that quality work has to fight for its place. So instead of celebrating our four-year anniversary, we’ve set about trying to build something new that we can still celebrate four years from now. (Okay, we also went for a couple drinks.)
Over the last year, our talented staff of designers and developers have taken what we’ve learned from our users and rolled it into an entirely new storytelling interface. We've redesigned every step of the creation process. The best way to understand what we’ve done is to try it, which you can do without even signing up. That’s how sure we are that it's unlike anything you've used before.
The system remains just as powerful, including the ability to build everything from a single story to an ebook to a full magazine, all the way up to full iOS and Android apps. But we’ve rethought every part of the creation process, from the typography used in our compose window to how to best prime stories to be shared. The result is an interface that we think is intuitive and tactile, and which encourages the creation of stories that are as unique as our users are diverse. (Under the hood, we're making innovative use of a bleeding-edge technology called "web components," and a software initiative at Google, Polymer, that makes component-based design possible today.)
The fundamental principle behind Atavist is that the creators should control their own work, and you’ll find that belief expressed everywhere: from our custom URL and logo option; to our cover design engine; to our unique visual themes; to developer tools that allow publishers to unlock the limitless potential of the web.
To give users even more control, we’ve atomized the storytelling process, deploying what we’re calling “blocks.” Blocks are a dead-simple way to work with all types of media—from the most basic YouTube or Vimeo embed to a more complex chart or interactive map—simply by clicking and dragging.
Compose your text, grab an image block, and drag in a photo, then mix in a Soundcloud block, write a bit more, build a custom chart, add and style a parallax image—and see the results as you’re building. We're starting with a set of standard blocks for all users, but we’ll be adding constantly. Future blocks are limited only by our and and our users’ imaginations.
As part of our top-to-bottom overhaul, we’re bringing our software back into the fold, so to speak. Known as Creatavist in its initial iteration, the platform will now be called Atavist. It’s got a new style and a new logo. Meanwhile, our own monthly magazine of original longform journalism, to which we’ve recently added two superstar new editors, is now officially The Atavist Magazine. (You’ll find it at magazine.atavist.com, with some other changes we're excited about coming soon.)
On Atavist, free users will be able to tell unlimited stories and host collections at their own handles. Existing Creativist users, meanwhile, will soon be transitioned over, and all of their work will stay intact. Beyond that, we now have four different upgrade plans that enable—among a number of other features—the ability to brand your work, password-protect sensitive publications, use your own domain, or open up our tools to develop using your own crew.
As the proprietors of our own magazine, we've always believed that publishers of all types, from individuals to media behemoths, should have the tools to make money off their work, if they wish. And our larger publishers have always been able to use our platform to do so. But taking inspiration from friends at places like Vimeo and VHX, we’re opening up Atavist’s selling features to more users than ever before.
In the digital world there is no one-size-fits-all way to turn your work into a business. We've designed Atavist to be as comprehensive as it is flexible, enabling users at different tiers to sell one-off stories and books, set up subscriptions and memberships, put up a metered paywall, or even do their own advertising. (Check out California Sunday Magazine’s brilliant native ads, for instance, built with Atavist.) In an online world that moves as fast as we can all keep up, we’re building the storytelling platform that’s already looking to the horizon.
Want to check out the new Atavist? Go to www.atavist.com.
To read The Atavist Magazine, go to magazine.atavist.com.
Media question? Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org.