Will more comments translate to more engagement for The Atlantic?

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The Atlantic is looking to a new commenting system to help increase reader engagement on its newly redesigned website.

The Atlantic, a 150-plus-year-old magazine that publishes in print 10 times a year, covers culture, business and politics. The website redesign, launched earlier this week, is designed to better integrate magazine content, blogs, videos and other Web content around seven topic areas.

“In our previous design, if you were reading Meghan McArdle’s blog, you weren’t exposed to some of the great pieces from the last issue of the magazine, or related videos,” said Scott Havens, The Atlantic’s vice president of digital strategy and operations. “Now you can consume it all on the same page.”

The new commenting system from Disqus, a San Francisco-based startup, extends that integration for readers. The previous commenting system was limited to blog content; now, readers can add comments on any page. Havens cited a handful of other reasons for upgrading the commenting system:

  • The ability for Disqus to host the comments to reduce the load on TheAtlantic’s own servers.
  • Better social media integration for sharing comments and providing single sign-on for users of Facebook Connect and Twitter, as well as registered Disqus users.
  • Strong moderation tools (The Atlantic frequently covers hot-button topics such as healthcare, Iraq and the banking industry, sparking some, uh, spirited reader comments.)

Havens hopes the expanded commenting system will help increase reader engagement with the site’s content, encouraging them not just to comment more frequently, but to explore the site in more depth. “A lot of people come in from Facebook, Twitter, and Google, read a page and take off,” he said. “We’d like to see people come, read, share and click.”

The redesign comes during a period of rapid growth for TheAtlantic.com. The company said advertising revenue for January grew 69% compared to January 2009, while site traffic grew 60% year over year, reaching 21 million page views and 3.7 million unique visitors.
 

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