Open main menu

The Athletic is a subscription-based sports website that provides ad-free national and local coverage in 47 North American cities as well as the United Kingdom. The Athletic also covers national stories from top professional and college sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NCAA FB, NCAA BB, MMA, NASCAR, soccer).[1] The Athletic's coverage focuses on a mix of long-form journalism, original reporting, and in-depth analysis. Its business model is predicated on dis-aggregating the sports section of local newspapers and reaching non-local fans not reached by a local newspaper.[2]

The Athletic
The Athletic.png
Type of site
Sports journalism
Available inEnglish, French (Montreal only)
Created byAlex Mather and Adam Hansmann
CommercialYes
RegistrationRequired
LaunchedJanuary 2016; 3 years ago (2016-01)

Contents

HistoryEdit

 
The Athletic app logo

The Athletic was founded by Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann, former coworkers at subscription-based fitness company Strava, with the mission of producing "smarter coverage for die-hard fans."[3] The company was built as an alternative to the struggling ad-supported models.[4] The Athletic relies on subscription revenue, not advertising revenue, to support the business.[5] Mather and Hansmann believed sports fans would be willing to pay for good reporting and writing, a clean app and no ads.[6] At the time, a few newspapers were trying out paywalls, but the common industry view was that information on the internet needed to be free.[7]

As part of Y Combinator's summer 2016 batch,[8] the site originally launched in Chicago in January 2016,[9] with Jon Greenberg serving as the founding editor, along with Sahadev Sharma (Cubs) and Scott Powers (Blackhawks). Greenberg and Powers previously worked at ESPN Chicago, while Sharma left Baseball Prospectus' Cubs vertical to join the website.

ExpansionEdit

In October 2016, The Athletic expanded to a second city, Toronto, to focus on Maple Leafs, Raptors, and Blue Jays coverage. The Athletic hired James Mirtle as editor-in-chief for Toronto.[10] Mirtle spent over a decade as a sportswriter at The Globe and Mail before joining The Athletic.

A third city, Cleveland, launched in March 2017, with Jason Lloyd as editor-in-chief.[11] The Athletic continued city expansion to Detroit in June 2017.[12]

In August 2017, the site launched in the San Francisco-area market with long-time San Jose Mercury News writers Tim Kawakami as editor-in-chief and Marcus Thompson as columnist.[13][14] The Athletic also added national coverage with new writers including baseball veteran Ken Rosenthal, shortly after Fox Sports eliminated its entire writing staff,[15][16] as well as college basketball standout Seth Davis and college football institution Stewart Mandel.[17][18] Mandel led the launch of the national college football vertical, "The All-American", at the end of August.

The Athletic expanded into Philadelphia, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, St Louis and the rest of Canada in September 2017 bringing local coverage to 15 US and Canadian pro sports markets. The vast majority of expansion was aimed at expanding coverage to underserved hockey fans.[19]

In February 2018, The Athletic announced further expansion into three new cities—New York, Dallas, and Cincinnati—and launched baseball-only coverage in Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego, Arizona, and Kansas City.[20][21][22] The site also introduced expanded national MLB coverage with the addition of Jayson Stark, Jim Bowden, Eno Sarris and editor Emma Span.[23]

The site announced full coverage in Denver and Boston starting in April 2018.[24] In Denver, The Athletic hired several reporters from The Denver Post.[25] In Boston, the initial staff consisted of beat writers previously employed at The Boston Globe, the Boston Herald and the Springfield Republican's web portal MassLive.[26] Adding to college football coverage, The Athletic added dedicated beat writers for major programs like Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.[27]

In May 2018, the site announced coverage of both domestic and international soccer.[28] In June 2018, The Athletic increased coverage in Los Angeles[29] and expanded into Buffalo, New York, by hiring several reporters who had been bought out from The Buffalo News the same month.[30]

The Athletic continued market expansion in July 2018 with the addition of Atlanta with former AJC writers David O'Brien and Jeff Schultz, Baltimore, and Wisconsin. The site also added 19 college football writers to cover most of the major NCAA FB programs[31].

In August 2018, The Athletic launched Fantasy Sports coverage and continued expansion across US markets including Washington DC, Carolina, Nashville, Indiana, Miami, and New Orleans.[32] The site also announced expanded NBA reporting with Shams Charania[33] and NFL coverage with Jay Glazer[34].

The Athletic completed local coverage expansion to all NHL and NFL teams by September 2018 after adding writers in Jacksonville, Houston, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Las Vegas. Memphis was added as the 47th local market covered by The Athletic in October 2018, expanding coverage to all NBA teams.

The Athletic signed three veteran TV journalists in November 2018, including 60 Minutes correspondent Armen Keteyian, in the publication's efforts to produce more video content as a supplement to written coverage.[35]

In May 2019, The Athletic announced an expansion into motorsports coverage featuring veteran journalist Jeff Gluck. While NASCAR will be the dominant focus of coverage, The Athletic aims to be a destination for all motorsports fans by including other major events such as the Indianapolis 500.[36]

In August 2019, The Athletic expanded to the United Kingdom, launching coverage for various football teams and leagues, including the English Premier League, EFL, Scottish Premiership and Bundesliga.[37]

FundingEdit

Investors, media executives, and reporters who don’t work for the Athletic all express skepticism about the business. But almost no one will share these sentiments publicly. Who wants to be seen badmouthing one of the only places still hiring journalists? Bringing on writers for top dollar and freeing them from chasing clicks is admirable, the doubters say, but it’s no way to make money.

Ira Boudway, Bloomberg BusinessWeek[7]

The Athletic has raised a total of $67.7 million over five rounds[38]. The first major funding was provided by Courtside Ventures, which provided $2.3 million in seed funding in Jan 2017.[39][40] In July 2017, the company raised another $5.4 million in Series A funding also led by Courtside Ventures[41]. In March 2018, the company announced a $20 million third round of funding led by Evolution Media. Mather reported that this money would be invested into expanding coverage to new cities and increasing the number of writers from the then staff of 120.[42] The Athletic raised another $40 million in a Series C funding round in October 2018, co-led by Founders Fund and Bedrock Capital.[43] The money will be used to invest in expanding teams focused on audience, data and editorial teams, subscriptions, podcasts and video.[44]

As of August 2019, The Athletic had 600,000 paying subscribers with an 80% retention rate year-over-year. Most of its subscribers, 60%, follow sports teams in two or more cities. The site remains unprofitable.[7]

WritersEdit

The Athletic staff consists of over 300 full-time editorial employees.[45] The roster of national and local writers includes:

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "The Athletic". The Athletic. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  2. ^ Draper, Kevin (23 October 2017). "Why The Athletic Wants to Pillage Newspapers". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  3. ^ Mather, Alex; Hansmann, Adam (January 30, 2018). "Playing the long game". The Athletic. Retrieved August 22, 2019. We founded The Athletic with this simple mission: produce smarter coverage for die-hard fans.
  4. ^ Mirtle, James (January 31, 2018). "Why The Athletic has a paywall". The Athletic. Retrieved August 22, 2019.
  5. ^ Biasotti, Tony (October 11, 2017). "Fast-growing startup aims to 'replace the sports page'". Columbia Journalism Review.
  6. ^ Draper, Kevin (2017-10-23). "Why The Athletic Wants to Pillage Newspapers". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  7. ^ a b c Boudway, Ira (August 20, 2019). "The Sports News Site Haters Love to Dunk on Keeps Signing Up Subscribers". Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Retrieved August 21, 2019.
  8. ^ "The Athletic gives diehard sports fans high-quality content without the ads". Y Combinator. July 11, 2016.
  9. ^ "Welcome Chicago, to The Athletic". The Athletic. January 22, 2016. Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  10. ^ @mirtle (23 November 2016). "Excited to announce that I've been hired as editor-in-chief with @TheAthleticTO, a great new startup site in Toronto" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  11. ^ Kleps, Kevin (February 17, 2017). "The Athletic soon will launch a Cleveland site featuring Jason Lloyd". Crain's Cleveland Business.
  12. ^ Shea, Bill (September 24, 2017). "The Athletic: Paywall sports journalism plants its flag in Detroit". Crain's Detroit Business.
  13. ^ "The Athletic's Expansion Features Some Big Names In Sportswriting". UPROXX. 2017-08-01. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  14. ^ "Interview: Tim Kawakami on leaving The Mercury News and joining The Athletic". Bay Area Sports Guy. Retrieved 2017-08-24.
  15. ^ Rosenthal, Ken (August 23, 2017). "Ken Rosenthal: Why I'm joining The Athletic". The Athletic.
  16. ^ "Fox Sports eliminates digital writing staff in favor of promoting their debate shows". Awful Announcing. June 26, 2017.
  17. ^ "Behind The Athletic's plans to grow local sports news subscriptions". Digiday. 2017-08-29. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  18. ^ "Big Names in Sportswriting Are Joining The Athletic". The Big Lead. 2017-07-13. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  19. ^ "Introducing The Athletic Canada, our national expansion..." The Athletic. Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  20. ^ "The Athletic is expanding to New York City, Dallas, and Cincinnati". Awful Announcing. 2018-02-01. Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  21. ^ Putterman, Alex (2018-02-12). "The Athletic launches even more local sites, seems to be going all-in on baseball". Awful Announcing.
  22. ^ Schram, Carol (2018-03-08). "The Athletic Will Keep Growing With The Help Of $20 Million In New Funding". Forbes.com.
  23. ^ Rosenthal, Ken. "Rosenthal: Welcome to our expanded coverage of major league..." The Athletic. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  24. ^ Putterman, Alex (2018-03-28). "The Athletic launches coverage in Denver, Seattle, and Tampa, making clear it wants to be everywhere". Awful Announcing.
  25. ^ Roberts, Michael (2018-03-27). "Post Broncos Writer Joins Site She Saw as Trying to Destroy Newspapers". Westword.
  26. ^ Finn, Chad. "The Athletic is filling out its Boston roster", Boston.com, 29 March 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  27. ^ "The All-New All-American". The Athletic. Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  28. ^ Quraishi, George (May 17, 2018). "Goooaaaalllll! Announcing The Athletic's soccer coverage". The Athletic.
  29. ^ "The Athletic is expanding once again, with increased coverage in Los Angeles, Dallas, Buffalo". Awful Announcing. June 18, 2018.
  30. ^ Ploetz, Elmer (June 19, 2018). "News, Etc.: Enter The Athletic Buffalo". The Public. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  31. ^ "The Athletic adds 19 college football writers, expands into Atlanta, Baltimore, and Wisconsin". Awful Announcing. 2018-07-17. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  32. ^ Cosentino, Dom. "Holy Shit, The Athletic Just Swiped A Bunch Of NFL Beat Writers". Deadspin. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  33. ^ "NBA Insider Shams Charania Tells Us Why He's Leaving Yahoo for The Athletic & Stadium". Complex. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  34. ^ Zucker, Joseph. "Jay Glazer Joins The Athletic; Will 'Call Bulls--t in a Way Others Can't'". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  35. ^ November 19; 2018. "The Athletic signs television vets to boost video content". www.sportsbusinessdaily.com. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  36. ^ https://theathletic.com/986020/2019/05/22/what-to-expect-from-the-athletics-motorsports-coverage/
  37. ^ Kay-Jelski, Alex. "What to expect from The Athletic UK". The Athletic. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
  38. ^ "The Athletic". Crunchbase. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  39. ^ "The Athletic Raises $2.3M in Seed Funding".
  40. ^ Heitner, Darren. "Why $2.1 Million Was Invested In A Sports News Subscription Site". Forbes. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  41. ^ "The Athletic, that local sports startup with no advertising, raises $5.4 million and scoops up Sports Illustrated's former top editor". Nieman Lab. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  42. ^ Mullin, Benjamin (2018-03-05). "The Athletic Raises $20 Million to Fund Expansion". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  43. ^ "Exclusive: The Athletic raises $40 million in new funding round". Axios. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  44. ^ Goldsmith, Jill. "The Athletic Raises $40M In Fresh Cash". Forbes. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  45. ^ Draper, Kevin (2018-08-24). "At The Athletic, a Hiring Spree Becomes a Story in Itself". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  46. ^ https://theathletic.com/986020/2019/05/22/what-to-expect-from-the-athletics-motorsports-coverage/

External linksEdit