January 11, 2024 | Paul Richardson
If you don’t know who Thompson is, that’s understandable. The internet and media landscape is awash in flashy, click-baity social media, bombastic politicians, and vapid influencers. So someone like Thompson, who is all about curating and sharing useful, important, factual information, operates well below the high tide line of hype and hoopla. And he’s been doing it for over two decades.
Let’s look at the combination of things that has Thompson gunning for Jonathan Goldsmith’s title.
ENTREPRENEUR ~ As the CEO of one of our country’s most influential media outlets, The Atlantic, Thompson has pushed at least two camels through needle eyes by making the venerable thinking person’s magazine (founded 1857) not only worth reading, but worth paying for. On his watch, the magazine has digitized its 166 years of articles, won numerous honors, and increased circulation over 35%. Prior to his position at The Atlantic, in 2011 Thompson co-founded the multimedia company and digital publication The Atavist, which was acquired by WordPress in 2018.
JOURNALIST ~ Thompson has been a nationally prominent journalist since 1998, when he wrote about being kidnapped during a trip to Morocco. He has written about everything from politics, to technology, and the law. He served as a senior editor at WIRED, a senior editor at Legal Affairs, an editor at the Washington Monthly, and the editor of NewYorker.com. Stories that he has edited and assigned have won many major awards and been made into films – including Ben Affleck’s Argo.
AUTHOR ~ In 2009, Thompson published the seminal biography, The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War, profiling the decades-long friendship and rivalry between these two political titans (disclaimer: Paul Nitze was his maternal grandfather). In the process of writing the book, Thompson became friends with Stalin’s daughter, who by that time was living in Wisconsin.
TALKING HEAD ~ In addition to his work at The Atlantic, Thompson is a contributor for CBS News and regularly appears on CBS This Morning and CBSN. And he regularly posts live video commentaries on LinkedIn, providing interesting observations and hot takes.
EXPERT ~ In 2018, Thompson was named the fourth most influential person on LinkedIn, following Richard Branson, Melinda Gates, and Justin Trudeau. He has a monthly newsletter, which currently has about 450,000 readers, that compiles the best things he has read recently. He has testified in front of the Mexican Senate about fake news.
ATHLETE ~ A longtime long-distance runner, on April 14, 2021, Thompson set the American record in the 50k for the 45-49 age group, finishing the race in 3:04:36. He runs to and from work.
MUSICIAN ~ Before all the journalism and writing and expert stuff, Thompson worked as a street musician in New York (“I played all around New York. I played in the subways. I cared a lot about it.”), crafting and recording three albums of instrumental acoustic guitar music.
Current "Most Interesting Man" Goldsmith was not sought for a comment about Thompson’s run on his title, but any rational, interesting person would be worried in his situation.
And if, by the way, you think Thompson does all that he does by not sleeping, think again. In a 2022 interview with GQ, he actually said that sleep is one of his secret weapons: “I try to get a good night's sleep. It's definitely one of the things I've learned. There are a whole bunch of things that have come from running that I think apply to the rest of my life. And if you're going to train at a high level, you have to sleep a lot. It's the only thing that works.”
Run, don’t walk, to our website and reserve your tickets to hear Nicholas Thompson speak at Festival Boca in March. Wouldn’t you want to be able to tell everyone you heard The World’s Most Interesting Man speak about technology and our wired future?