The Athletic

From BR Bullpen

The Athletic is a subscription-based sports website that provides national and local coverage of sports stories without advertising. It was created in 2016 in reaction to the ongoing crisis in the newspaper industry that had seen a number of important local papers close down and many others reduce their reporting staffs to a bare minimum. Sports coverage was a major victim of these cuts, with papers relying more and more on stories from press agencies to cover even local teams, and a dramatic fall in the amount of in-depth or investigative reporting on sports stories.

The service was originally launched in Chicago, IL to cover the local sports scene, then extended to a number of other cities to reach almost 50 by the end of the decade, in addition to its national coverage. They also had 600,000 paying subscribers. The site made baseball one of its areas of focus from the start, with Sahadev Sharma, a former editor of Baseball Prospectus among its first employees. The Athletic then recruited a number of other well-known baseball reporters, including a number of those who were doing local coverage for Baseball writers have included Ken Rosenthal, Jayson Stark, Peter Gammons, Jim Bowden, Joe Posnanski, Keith Law and John Lott.

Given the quality of its writing staff, the Athletic quickly became a reference in the world of sports reporting, although one of the side-effects of its business model was that its stories could not be shared with non-subscribers, limiting their impact. As an example of their breakthrough coverage, they were instrumental in breaking the sign-stealing scandal that rocked baseball after the 2019 season.

On January 6, 2022, the website was bought by The New York Times for $550 million. Observers noted that by this time, the size of its staff of sportswriters had reached 450, in comparison to just 45 for the Times. It also had 1.2 million subscribers, making the fifth largest English-language digital journalism suite; the Times was first on that list, with 8 million subscribers, with little overlap between the two groups.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Kevin Draper: "Why The Athletic Wants to Pillage Newspapers", The New York Times, October 23, 2017. [1]