Atlas Obscura Hires Long-term Media Executive as New CEO

Warren Webster takes over from David Plotz

The new CEO served most recently as president and CEO of Coveteur, a fashion site. Before that, he was the COO of Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP and was a co-founder of the hyperlocal news site Patch. - Credit by Atlas Obscura
Headshot of Josh Sternberg

Key insight:

Almost five months after David Plotz, the now-former CEO of Atlas Obscura, announced he was stepping aside, the travel zine has announced a new chief executive.

Warren Webster, a long-time media executive, takes the helm of the company at a time when Atlas Obscura is looking at new ways to grow not only its media business, but its experience business.

“I’ve known Atlas for 10 years since Josh and Dylan started it. I’d been in touch with Josh back in 2009/10 about coming and helping them,” Webster said in an interview with Adweek. “I’ve been an avid user ever since. Atlas is aligned with where travel is going now: getting out of the mainstream and finding places around the world you may not know, places you might want to read about online or experience on a trip. The real appeal is it has a remarkable opportunity to capture a growing audience who think differently about travel.” 

In October, the company announced that it had taken on $20 million in funding, including a healthy amount from Airbnb, with the goal of investing in trips and experiences. 

Plotz told Adweek at the time: “We think of Atlas as an experiences company powered by media. For the long-term future of the company, we think the experience piece is going to be the real driver and differentiator for us.”

Webster added that the company is actively hiring across its trips and experiences team, and “building more to come across the company.”

At a time when the news is full of epidemic fears and systemic crashes, sites that offer something different like Atlas Obscura have media buyers excited.

“I love Atlas. It’s one of those sites where you wish you could truly quantify the revenue generated from content,” said Chad Stoller, global chief innovation officer, UM. “Their stories spark so many shares, which turn into conversations, which turn to meals, experiences and travel. It’s great to see them expand into travel and experiences while also moving their content into other formats. A few years back, I gave their book away as a holiday gift and it was definitely the hit of the season.”

All these different revenue streams, Webster said, provide advertisers a chance to be a part of the company’s continued growth. 

“The fact we offer a utility and interesting information that is applicable to a lot of people is appealing to them,” Webster said. “It’s not controversial news; it’s exciting useful info.”

Webster believes he can pick up the ball pretty easily, as for the last several months he’s been serving as a consultant to the media company on business strategy.

This also isn’t his first media rodeo, as he’s served most recently as president and CEO of Coveteur, a fashion site. Before that, he was the COO of Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP and was a co-founder of the hyperlocal news site Patch. Webster believes these experiences help put him in a position to succeed. 

For example, he’s bringing what he learned at GOOP: how to build an engaged community with content and then monetizing that community in new and different ways. 

“We believe Atlas Obscura will be one of the great enduring brands of the 21st century, representing wonder, curiosity, and exploration for our generation,” Joshua Foer, Atlas Obscura’s co-founder and chairman, said in a statement. “And this is just the beginning.” 


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@joshsternberg Josh Sternberg is the former media and tech editor at Adweek.