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This is a case study assignment for Atavist, please read the case carefully and answer the questions in 4 pages (below 1430 words). The requirement of other references is more than 5 academic references. More detailed requirements are in the enclosure.


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Following are the requirements for the Individual Assignment. Please read these
requirements carefully before you commence your assignment and then again when you
have completed your assignment so to ensure that it meets the requirements.
1 Value
20% of your overall course mark.
2 Due Date & Lodgement
This assignment requires online submissions via Turnitin only.
The due date and time for this individual assignment is on the 22ed of March 2019 by
3 Mode
To be undertaken individually
4 Requirements
In this assignment, you are required to answer a set of questions based on the case
published at Harvard Business School Publishing website. Briefly,
The digital publishing firm, Atavist, was started by Evan Ratliff, Jefferson Rabb, and
Nick Thompson in 2010. Their goal was to create a new product category: digitallyenhanced, narrative long-form non-fiction – enhanced “singles” – that could be read on
mobile devices such as the iPad, and in unenhanced form on dedicated ereaders such
as Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook. While the firm has achieved
recognition for the quality of some of its publications, Atavist has received as much
attention, if not more, for its publishing software, also developed by Rabb.
Consequently, the founders found themselves in the enviable position of being offered
a new and unanticipated revenue stream – licensing fees from the software – which
ironically, had the potential to be larger than publishing revenues. With the heightened
interest in the software, and the strong financial incentives to pursue its licensing, the
firm needed to review their business model and find the best way to ensure high and
steady revenues without compromising their publishing vision.
Before you can read the case at Harvard Business School Publishing website, you are
required to create your own account using your UNSW email address and password. Then
you can login the case online (the link is provided at course website Individual Assignment
folder), read the case, watch the videos.
Please complete the following questions based on your understanding, knowledge and
Please note, in the following questions to be answered as well as other areas, the “firm”
we mentioned refers to the case company “Atavist”.
1) Using any devices you have to find the story called “The Instigators” published by
Atavist. Read the story preview or full if you like, experiencing the various
enhancements. Then answer the following questions in less than 50 words total:
a. Provide three different examples of the enhancement feature included in “The
Instigators”. Screenshot is sufficient. This part doesn’t count as part of 50-word
limit. (Maximum of 3 mark deduction if not provided)
b. From a reader perspective, do you like the enhancement feature of the story,
and why? (7 marks)
c. If you are willing to pay for a story reading, would you pay more for a story with
enhancement feature, and why? (3 marks)
2) The following questions are answered based on the context in which the case was
a. In less than 50 words describing what were the two products the firm offered?
(5 marks)
b. In less than 150 words describing what business model, either pipeline or
platform, the firm adopted for each product you have described in 2(a) above;
then describing each model in details by providing the business process; if it
is a multi-sided platform, providing each side. (10 marks)
c. In less than 30 words describing what were the revenue models for each
product you have described in 2(a) above? (5 marks)
d. In less than 100 words explaining why the firm didn’t single-mindedly pursue
the profit software business, given all the problems with the publishing
business? (10 marks)
e. In less than 50 words describing what were the three decisions the firm faced
at the end of the case study (5 marks)
3) The following questions are answered based on the background information that the
case study has presented and may need your own analysis and judgement. Each subquestion is answered in less than 200 words. (12.5 marks for each sub-question)
a. Ratliff and Rabb believe that enhancements are critical to the value proposition
of the Atavist. Do you agree? From the startup’s perspective, should they
continue to emphasize enhancements? What are the pros and cons?
b. If Ratliff and Rabb are successful in raising money, should they allocate the
majority of fund to the publishing side or to the software side of the business?
Do you believe the synergies between publishing and software development
indeed exist, and why?
c. Justify each of the following business models, which one is optimal for Atavist’s
publishing business, and why?
i. Continue selling individual stories as it does now
ii. Switch to a magazine-like model, selling subscriptions
iii. Sell subscriptions as an option, in additional to single sales
iv. Switch to an ad-based model (the stories are provided free of cost).
d. Provide recommendations to Rafliff and Rabb for the three decisions you
have described in 2(e), with brief justification.
4) In less than 200 words describing what has happened to Atavist since the case
was written. (5 marks)
You are required to carefully consider the points that you wish to make in this report. In
order to prepare your assignment, you will need to undertake research. However, you
should ensure that you use the information gathered to illustrate your argument; you
should not simply describe your findings.
5 Submission Details
Word Limit:
The maximum number of words is 1,430 words, with each sub-question having specific
word limit. You are required to comply with this word limit. Words beyond limit will not be
counted and assessed. Each question you provide is not included as part of word limit.
You are required to indicate the word count for your assignment in the field provided on
the cover page (only your answers, not questions themselves).
Please ensure your analyses are clearly and succinctly expressed.
Report Format
Given the word limit for the assignment, you can structure your report as a
Question/Answer format, i.e., present your answers against each question. There is no
need for executive summary, table of content, introduction, and conclusion as normal
report does. Reference list is needed if you have cited others’ work in your answers.
Reference list is not part of word limit.
Late Lodgement &Extensions:
Late assignments (without approved extensions) will attract a penalty of 10% of the
available marks per day of lateness(including weekends and public holidays). The penalty
will be deducted from the mark your assignment is awarded. General information on
special consideration for postgraduate courses can be found in the Course Outline.
Please note:

Extensions are only granted in exceptional circumstances. You will be required to
substantiate your application with appropriate documentary evidence such as
medical certificates, accident reports etc.
You should note that extensions are not usually granted for computer-related
problems or heavy workloads (at either your job or University).
Students are expected to manage their time to meet deadlines and to request
extensions as early as possible before the deadline.
Applications of special consideration (i.e. extension) can only be made through
Online Services in myUNSW. Applications will not be accepted by teaching staff.
The lecturer-in-charge/course coordinator will be automatically notified when you

lodge an online application for special consideration.
Applying for special consideration does not automatically mean that you will be
granted an extension or other concession.
Formatting Requirements:
Please observe the following formatting constraints when writing your assignment
• 10 – 12 point font, single spacing
• Page numbers on each page
• Normal margins
Penalties may also apply in the following circumstances:
• The assignment contains spelling and grammatical mistakes (minimal of 2 marks
• The submission requirements have not been adhered to.
6 Plagiarism
UNSW regards plagiarism as a form of academic misconduct. UNSW has very strict rules
regarding plagiarism. Plagiarism at UNSW is using the words or ideas of others and
passing them off as your own. All Schools in the Business School have a Student Ethics
Officer who will investigate incidents of plagiarism and may result in a student’s name
being placed on the Plagiarism and Student Misconduct Registers. Please refer to course
Outline for more details.
At a minimum this typically entails the student being award zero (0) marks for the
plagiarized assignment.
6.1 Originality Checks
The originality of the submission will be checked using Turnitin. Please check the
originality report generated by Turnitin during the submission process.
7 References
For the Harvard Referencing guide, see:
Using a citation method other than Harvard referencing may result in a penalty.
8 Marking Criteria
The aim of the assignment is to get you to firstly experience the e-Business product which
was referred in the case, and then use the material that you have covered in the course
to analyse the business model, current situation and challenges of the case company in
light of the scenario described in the case. The assignment requires you to illustrate your
understanding of the course material by making an argument in a succinct way. The report
should therefore be analytical rather than descriptive, and should explain the reasoning
behind the argument made concisely.
Your report will be marked on the extent to which you have answered the question
pertaining to each question and support that answer with sound logic. The marker will
also consider extent to which the answer demonstrates a clear understanding of the
concepts involved in the question, an appreciation of the context of the question, an
insight into question.
Reports that address each of the criteria set out below very well will be rewarded with a
very good mark for that section. Reports that address each of the criteria set out below
well (or some very well, and other not so well) will receive a good mark. Reports that fail
to adequately address most of the criteria set out below will receive a poor mark.
Report Marking Criteria: (90%)
• Provides your true experience of Atavist product and its enhancement features.
• Identifies two products that the company offered.
• Provides a concise and well-researched description of the revenue models for each
• Provides a well-researched and succinct description of the company business
models and their business processes.
• Presents a well-researched discussion on the key motivations you think to drive the
founders of the company not to single-mindedly pursue the profit software
• Provides a concise summary on the three decisions the company faced at the end
of the case study.
• Provides well-justified justifications on your option from a startup’s perspective of if
the enhancements are critical to the value proposition of Atavist, and if it should
continue to emphasize enhancements; presents a carefully considered
comparison of the pros and cons.
• Provides well-justified justifications on your option of future fund allocation for the
• Presents a well-researched discussion on the optimal business model for Atavist’s
publishing business.
• Presents carefully considered and well-justified recommendations on the
company’s three business decisions.
• Provides a well-researched description of Atavist’s movements after the case
Report Presentation (10%)
Marks will be awarded for the quality of the presentation of the report. In judging the
quality of the presentation of a report, the marker will consider to extent to which the
• Is written in clear and concise language (within the word limits) and is free of
grammatical errors, typographical mistakes and unnecessary hyperbole;
• Follows a logical structure;
• Has consistent formatting throughout;
• Makes use of the supplied coversheet;
• Has the appearance, demeanour and substance of professional report, suitable to
be presented to, and read by senior management.
• If applicable, including properly formatted references (using the Harvard method)
and a properly formatted reference list (using the Harvard method).
The Atavist: Reinventing the Book
Chapter 1. Introduction
In November, 2011, Evan Ratliff and Jefferson Rabb, who had co-founded with Nick Thompson in 2010, were returning
from a meeting with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) to their new office space in Brooklyn, NY (see Video 1).
The meeting had been called by CFR to explore the possibility of licensing Atavist’s Periodic Technology software to publish Foreign
Affairs, the CFR periodical as enhanced digital content. The meeting had gone well, which had only served to focus the founders’ minds
on questions about their fledgling company that they had been grappling with, to no resolution.
Ratliff, Rabb, and Thompson had incorporated Atavist in September, 2010 with the goal of publishing digitally enhanced, narrative
long-form non-fiction titles—‘singles’—that could be read on mobile devices such as the iPad and in unenhanced form on dedicated
ereaders such as Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook. As of November, 2011, they had published eight stories, and sales had
exceeded expectations, with two stories, My Mother’s Lover, and Lifted spending time on the Kindle best-seller list.
Atavist had also received significant favorable press coverage for its innovative format, which included embedded links to story
enhancements such as video, audio, photographs, brief bios of characters, timelines, and maps. Every article in the press was followed
by a spike in inquiries, such as the one from CFR, from companies interested in licensing Atavist’s software for their own digital
publications. Rabb had developed the software for internal use but had kept the design simple and intuitive, so that adding
enhancements did not require deep technical expertise; it was “almost like writing a blog,” he said. The simplicity of the software made
it attractive to other companies seeking to digitize their content and offer more than just a digital version of the print publication.
Consequently, Atavist had found itself in the enviable position of being offered a new and unexpectedly large revenue stream—licensing
fees—which, ironically had the potential to be larger than their publishing revenues.
This development, however, threw into sharp relief some questions related to their business model and at a deeper level, their vision for
the company. The founders had strong roots in the publishing business, and they had started Atavist primarily as a means of
disseminating unique content that they believed should have an outlet. To date, they had focused on selling individual stories, but going
forward they wondered whether to offer subscriptions and accept advertising. In the long run, they hoped to create ‘born-digital’ content
that was fundamentally distinct from print media. However the market for enhanced content had been slow to develop, leading them to
largely depend on sales of unenhanced stories. How much emphasis should they continue to place on digital enhancements? With the
heightened interest in the software, were they at risk of becoming a software business rather than a publisher? Every time they
returned from a meeting like the one at CFR, the founders wondered how to balance the needs of the growing licensing business with
those of the publishing venture. What was the best way to ensure high and steady revenues without compromising their publishing
Chapter 2. The Idea for Atavist
The idea for Atavist came to Ratliff and Thompson in 2009, when both worked for the magazine, Wired; Ratliff was a regular
contributor and Thompson was his editor. Exhibit 1: Bios Ratliff had worked on a story called Vanish, in which he described his attempt
to “vanish” by dropping his old life and reinventing himself, in order to understand how people disappear. An account of Ratliff’s monthlong life (complete with disguises, prepaid cell phones, fake email, ID’s, and cash-only purchases) on the lam as well as readers’
attempts to find him, the story had run long (9,000 words) by usual magazine standards. But Ratliff and Thompson both felt that if the
story had been shortened, it would not have been as effective (see Video 2).
The two of them began discussing how a venture that published long-form content online would work. They quickly invited Rabb, who
had technological expertise, to their early explorations of the feasibility of such a venture. The three carried out informal discussions for
months, trying to work out details. In January, 2010, the meetings became more formal, and, as Ratliff recalled, “We were keeping
‘meeting notes,’ to try and track all the things we were talking about.” They decided to focus on publishing narrative, long-form, nonfiction online.
“I only wanted to publish non-fiction. I just like it. Long-form reporting and writing was what lured me into journalism in the first
place; it was all I’d ever really wanted to do as a writer. So it was what we wanted to create a home for, digitally. Fiction did not excite
me. Nonetheless every article we publish has to have a narrative arc—characters, a beginning, a middle, and an ending; but, we won’t
publish profiles.”1
The intent was to publish the stories with enhancements such as videos, audio recordings, photographs, character bios, and timelines
that pushed the boundaries of how digital stories were told and gave the readers multiple layers of information in the narrative.
If they put the story down for a day and lost track of a character, they could tap that character’s name and call up a bio. If they lost
track of the timeline, they could tap a date, and pull up a full timeline of the story. To help potential customers better understand the
Atavist experience, the team had posted an informational video on their website (see Video 3).
Even after this important decision was made, however, there were plenty of things the founders still had to discuss and determine, not
least of which was the question of what to name the company (see Video 4).
Chapter 3. Technology and Design
One of the first decisions the founders faced was which reading platforms to use. Should they focus on a web-based browser reading
experience or on mobile devices? They decided on mobile devices, originally planning to publish for the iPhone, until the iPad was
announced in January, 2010.
They then faced the question of whether they should publish only on the iPhone, iPad and other tablets, where they could design an
enhanced–reading environment, or also create content for text-oriented readers like the Kindle and the Nook. In the end, to maximize
the potential audience, they decided to distribute stories on both types of devices, even though this meant developing two versions of
each story: an enhanced version delivered through their own app on the iPhone/iPad and an unenhanced version that could be read on
the Kindle or Nook.
Being avid readers themselves, the founders were particular about the reading experience they wanted to create. Their goal was to
achieve a subtle balance; the enhancements had to be integral to the story and improve the reader’s experience, but at the same time
the text-only version could not feel like it was missing something. Exhibit 2: Enhancements (see Video 5)
They agreed upon a set of simple design specifications, through a series of iterations on a prototype. Rabb then began developing what
would eventually become the iOS apps and the Periodic Technology software platfo …
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