Nicholas Thompson (editor)

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Nicholas Thompson
Nicholas thompson.jpg
Alma mater
Years active1999–present
OrganizationThe Atlantic

Nicholas Thompson (born 1975) is an American technology journalist and media executive. In February 2021, he became Chief Executive Officer of The Atlantic.[1] Thompson was selected in part for his editorial experience, which includes stints as the editor-in-chief of Wired and as the editor of[1] He was responsible for instituting digital paywalls at both The New Yorker and Wired; at Wired, digital subscriptions increased almost 300 percent in the paywall's first year.[1][2] While at The New Yorker, Thompson co-founded Atavist, which sold to Automattic in 2018, and in 2009, he published his first book, The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War, a biography of George Kennan and Thompson's maternal grandfather, Paul Nitze.[1] Thompson's assorted writing includes features on Facebook's scandals,[3] his own friendship with Stalin's daughter,[4] an unidentified hiker,[5][6] and his marathon running.[7]

In addition to his work at The Atlantic, Thompson is a contributor for CBS News and regularly appears on CBS This Morning and CBSN.[8] In 2021, he set the American record in the 50k for men aged 40–45.[9]

Early life and education[edit]

Thompson grew up in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts and went to high school at Phillips Academy, Andover.[7][10] He then attended Stanford University, where he wrote for the Stanford Daily and founded a student newspaper, The Thinker.[10] He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1997 with honors and with degrees in Earth Systems, Political Science, and Economics,[11][12] and in 1996, he was awarded a Harry S. Truman Scholarship.[10] Upon receiving the scholarship, Thompson stressed his interest in "help[ing] create links between environmentalists and businesspeople."[10]


After college, Thompson briefly worked at CBS as an associate producer before being fired on his first day, as someone believed he was too inexperienced.[13] Without other plans, he traveled to Africa, where he was kidnapped in Morocco by drug dealers “immediately upon landing.”[13] The daylong experience led Thompson to publish his first professional story, a piece in The Washington Post titled "Continental Drift."[14][13]

When he came back to the U.S., Thompson worked as a freelance journalist and as a street musician in New York City, frequently performing on the 14th Street L train platform at Sixth Avenue.[15] He was then hired at Penguin Computing, a Linux hardware company in San Francisco, but he made the transition back to journalism when he was hired as an editor of the Washington Monthly in 1999.[16][17] During two years Thompson worked at Washington Monthly under Charles Peters and Paul Glastris,[18] his most prominent story was a piece that exposed fraud in the U.S. News & World Report college rankings.[19] Following another stint as a freelance reporter in Africa, he was hired as a senior editor at Legal Affairs.[20]

In 2005, he was about to start law school at NYU when he instead joined Wired as a senior editor.[21] During that time, he assigned and edited the feature story, "The Great Escape," which was the basis for the Oscar-winning film Argo.[22] He also edited "Vanish" by writer Evan Ratliff, an interactive digital manhunt in which Ratliff tried to disappear with no digital record and challenged readers to track him down, all in an attempt to figure out how difficult it would be to "vanish in the digital age."[23] The winner would walk away with $5000 and a photo in Wired, and Thompson's job was to slowly parcel out information on Ratliff.[24][23] Afterwards, Thompson and Ratliff, along with Jefferson Rabb, co-founded Atavist, a multimedia magazine and software company.[25] In 2018, Thompson, Rabb, and Ratliff sold Atavist to Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.[26]

In 2010, Thompson was hired as a senior editor at The New Yorker.[27] From 2012 to 2017, Thompson served as the editor of, where he oversaw and managed the magazine's website.[28] In that time, the number of monthly readers increased seven-fold.[29] He also led the redesign and re-platforming of the site, the launch of The New Yorker Today app, and the introduction of a metered paywall.[30][31] "What we're trying to do is make a website that is to the Internet what the magazine is to all other magazines," Thompson told Politico at the time of the website's relaunch in 2014.[32] By the time the metered paywall was introduced months later, new subscription sign-ups were 85 percent higher than they had been the previous January.[33] Thompson also wrote for the magazine, most notably a piece on his long friendship with Joseph Stalin's daughter.[34]

In 2017, Thompson returned to Wired as its fifth editor-in-chief.[27] “Nick’s return to Wired, combined with his impeccable journalistic skills, will give the Wired team a tremendous advantage in covering the world of technology,” Condé Nast's Anna Wintour said at the time of the announcement.[27] Under his leadership, Wired launched a successful paywall, won the National Magazine Award for design and photography[35] and was nominated for general excellence.[36] Thompson took an evolved approach to the magazine's editorial mission,[37] as Wired was once an optimistic advocate for the tech industry.[38] “The job isn’t to champion, the job is to be as smart as you can be about [tech companies] and praise them when they do things that are right and hold them to account when they do things that are wrong,” he said. “The role of Wired has shifted, and it’s shifted in a way that’s a little complicated for our audience.”[39]

In October 2018, Wired celebrated its 25th anniversary with a four-day festival and summit in San Francisco, as well as a VIP dinner hosted by Thompson and Anna Wintour.[40]

As editor-in-chief, Thompson continued writing and reporting.[41] In February 2018, he co-wrote Wired's cover story "Inside the Two Years that Shook Facebook—and the World," an 11,000-word investigation based on reporting with more than fifty current and former Facebook employees.[42] Fortune described the piece as "a stellar example of the sort of long-form journalism that no summaries or clickbait teases or listicles can replace, the kind of substantive analysis and storytelling that make democracy and capitalism function.”[43] He has also authored features about Instagram's machine learning, the rising tensions between the US and China over artificial intelligence,[44] how technology helped him run a faster marathon at age 43,[45] and his personal relationship to running.[7] In 2020, Thompson authored a viral story about an unidentified, deceased hiker known to others as "Mostly Harmless."[5] Mostly Harmless was identified in January 2021,[46] and Thompson penned a follow-up piece in the aftermath.[6]

Thompson is also the author of a book, The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War, which was published in 2009.[47] It tells the story of the Cold War through the relationship and rivalry of Kennan, the author of the Long Telegram, and Nitze, one of America's top arms negotiators, who was also Thompson's grandfather.[1] The Washington Post called the book “brilliant” and The New York Times described it as “brimming with fascinating revelations.”[16]

In 2018, he was named one of LinkedIn's top voices alongside Richard Branson, Melinda Gates, and Justin Trudeau.[48]


On April 14, 2021, Thompson set the American record in the 50k for the 45-49 age group after finishing the race in 3:04:36.[49] He credited his success partly to variations in stimulus and to his new position at The Atlantic, noting that "a key part of aging successfully is doing something new."[9]



  • Thompson, Nicholas (2009). The Hawk and the Dove.

Essays and reporting[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Tracy, Marc (2020-12-03). "The Atlantic Plucks Wired Magazine's Top Editor as Its New C.E.O." The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  2. ^ "We Launched a Paywall. It Worked! Mostly". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  3. ^ "15 Months of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  4. ^ Thompson, Nicholas (24 March 2014). "My Friend, Stalin's Daughter". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  5. ^ a b "A Nameless Hiker and the Case the Internet Can't Crack". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2021-04-22.
  6. ^ a b "The Unsettling Truth About the 'Mostly Harmless' Hiker". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2021-04-22.
  7. ^ a b c Thompson, Nicholas (April 20, 2020). "To Run My Best Marathon at Age 44, I Had to Outrun My Past". Wired. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
  8. ^ "Nicholas Thompson". New America. Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  9. ^ a b "How 45-year-old Nicholas Thompson Trained to Run 5:56 per mile for 50K". PodiumRunner. 2021-04-16. Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  10. ^ a b c d "Four Stanford students awarded Truman Scholarships". Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  11. ^ "Nicholas Thompson". The Globalist. Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  12. ^ "Nicholas Thompson | Political Science". Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  13. ^ a b c Ferriss, Tim (2018-06-26). "The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: Nick Thompson (#311)". The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss. Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  14. ^ Thompson, Nick (1998-11-08). "Continental Drift". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2020-06-01.
  15. ^ Bloomgarden-Smoke, Kara (2018-02-01). "Media People: Wired Editor in Chief Nicholas Thompson". WWD. Retrieved 2019-01-16.
  16. ^ a b "Nicholas Thompson". Nicholas Thompson. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
  17. ^ "Nicholas Thompson | Washington Monthly". Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  18. ^ Carlson, Peter (2001-04-30). "Charlie Peters: The Genuine Article". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  19. ^ Kuczynski, Alex (2001-08-22). "'Best' List for Colleges by U.S. News Is Under Fire". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-01-16.
  20. ^ Lee, Juliet (2013-03-19). "Nicholas Thompson - NCAFP | National Committee on American Foreign Policy". Retrieved 2021-04-22.
  21. ^ "Nicholas Thompson: A note to the Wired staff on my last day as editor". Retrieved 2021-04-22.
  22. ^ Thompson, Nicholas (21 February 2013). "The Wired Origins of "Argo"". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  23. ^ a b "Writer Evan Ratliff Tried to Vanish: Here's What Happened". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  24. ^ "Author Evan Ratliff Is on the Lam. Locate Him and Win $5,000". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  25. ^ "Atavist". Atavist. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
  26. ^ " parent company acquires Atavist". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
  27. ^ a b c Pallotta, Frank (2017-01-03). "Wired names Nicholas Thompson to take over for Scott Dadich". CNNMoney. Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  28. ^ "Looking back at six years of New Yorker stories". Retrieved 2021-04-22.
  29. ^ Bazilian, Emma (May 9, 2013). "The New Yorker Saw Record-Breaking Web Traffic Last Month". Retrieved 2019-01-16.
  30. ^ "The New Yorker's Nicholas Thompson: 'You have to be good at the beginning'". Digiday. 2016-04-29. Retrieved 2021-04-22.
  31. ^ Johnson, Eric (2018-02-01). "Paywalls make content better, Wired editor Nick Thompson says". Vox. Retrieved 2021-04-22.
  32. ^ Levy, Nicole; Sterne, Peter. "A relaunch for The New Yorker, with high stakes". POLITICO Media. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
  33. ^ "How The New Yorker brought the soul of the magazine to the web". Poynter. 2017-01-31. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
  34. ^ Thompson, Nicholas (2014-03-24). "My Friend, Stalin's Daughter". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
  35. ^ "ASME - 2019 Winners". Retrieved 2021-04-22.
  36. ^ "ELLIES 2019 FINALISTS ANNOUNCED". Retrieved 2021-04-22.
  37. ^ "Facebook Eviscerated Over Fake News". Fortune. Retrieved 2019-01-16.
  38. ^ Bloomgarden-Smoke, Kara (2018-02-01). "Media People: Wired Editor in Chief Nicholas Thompson". WWD. Retrieved 2021-04-22.
  39. ^ Bloomgarden-Smoke, Kara (2018-02-01). "Media People: Wired Editor in Chief Nicholas Thompson". WWD. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
  40. ^ Nicas, Jack (2018-10-16). "Wired Magazine Turns 25 With a Brainy Party". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-01-16.
  41. ^ "Nicholas Thompson". Wired. Retrieved 2021-04-22.
  42. ^ Vogelstein, Nicholas; Thompson, Fred (2018-02-12). "Inside Facebook's Two Years of Hell". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
  43. ^ "Facebook Eviscerated Over Fake News". Fortune. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
  44. ^ "The AI Cold War That Threatens Us All". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2019-09-03.
  45. ^ "An Aging Marathoner Tries to Run Fast After 40". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2019-09-03.
  46. ^ Kearney, Megan. "Deceased hiker 'Mostly Harmless' has been identified after two years. Here's a timeline of the case". Naples News. Retrieved 2021-04-22.
  47. ^ Thompson, Nicholas (15 September 2009). The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War. ISBN 978-0805081428.
  48. ^ "LinkedIn Top Voices". Retrieved 2019-01-16.
  49. ^ "Des Linden Gets Her 1st World Record". 14 April 2021. Retrieved 2021-04-14.
  50. ^ Online version is titled "One man's trash".

External links[edit]