Monthly political and cultural editorial magazine, The Atlantic, announced in an editor's note this week that it would be ditching its subscriber registration requirement to view online content. The magazine's printed content, including archives from 1995-present, is now free for the general public on its web site. Archives dating back to 1857 are available as part of a for-pay premium pass program (though some of those articles should be in the public domain, right?), excluding articles from January, 1964 - September, 1992, which are left out for copyright purposes.

"We're pleased to bring The Atlantic before a broader online audience," said the magazine's editorial board, saying that it hoped that an increased online reach would encourage more people to subscribe to the print edition. The print version of the magazine is currently read by around 425,000 people, while the online edition has a monthly people count of just under 400,000 according to Compete.

The Atlantic follows other old guard US media properties that have recently set their online content free.

In September, the New York Times removed the pay wall on the majority of its archives, as well as its TimesSelect service, which included non-news content like editorials by Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd. By removing pay walls, magazines and newspaper create more pages on which to sell advertising, and can theoretically increase traffic and improve search rankings (due to the influx of new content that can then be returned in search results). When the Times stopped charging, some bloggers estimated that it would see an uptick in pageviews by as much as 14%.

In Novemember, Rupert Murdoch followed suit and announced that the Wall Street Journal would stop charging for content. The Journal operates one of the most successful online subscription news sites, with subscribers bringing in $50 million per year in revenue, but Murdoch is hoping that by dropping the pay requirements on its content, the site's traffic will balloon and allow the paper to recoup the lost subscription revenue via advertising. Not having a pay wall would allow the paper to reach readers "in every corner of the earth," said Murdoch in November.

The Atlantic has long operated a successful web operation, including some of the most cited political blogs on the web. In fact, three of the magazine's blogs currently appear in the Memeorandum top 20 -- the only mainstream media source to accomplish that feat. Removing the magazine's online pay wall should help to cement its web site as a leader in its market.

Update: Looks like we spoke too soon. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland today, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch said that the Wall Street Journal would not be going free online after all. "We are going to greatly expand and improve the free part of the Wall Street Journal online, but there will still be a strong offering" for subscribers, Mr. Murdoch said according to the WSJ. "The really special things will still be a subscription service, and, sorry to tell you, probably more expensive."