The field of sports journalism has become as competitive as ever in the 21st century.
With print media outlets vying for premium user space and the interest of the commercial dollar, The Athletic has developed into one of the most successful enterprises.
Did this explosion to a $300 million net worth and 100,000 subscribers happen overnight? Far from it.
Owners Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann have been based out of their central headquarters in San Francisco, constructing a business framework that continues to produce outstanding results.
The Athletic covers a wide range of sports and major leagues that caters to the interests of the masses. This will incorporate the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, motor sports, golf, the English Premier League, European soccer and beyond. While major broadsheets have hired a handful of specialists covering the sports beat for their paper or website, this is a brand that has a specialist covering every single team for every single league, with sometimes multiple journalists working the same beat. That model produces the most comprehensive of coverage that cannot be matched through other outlets.
Fluctuations in the economy should not be a barrier to commercial success with The Athletic. This is the fresh approach that continues to outlay 30 and 60-day free trials for those that want to dip their toes into the service. Once shoppers see the value for themselves, they are able to sign up for as little as $10 a month or $60 a year, cashing in on quality sports coverage that is condensed into a single location.
Consumers want to be able to sign up to a platform that is easy to use and cuts out the complication. Although this can be a struggle for certain subscription services, it is not the situation with The Athletic via their app integration and online dashboard. Individuals are able to identify their favorite sports team and sports league, creating a customized interface that caters to the client. If this was not enough of a selling point, this is an ad-free service that cuts out the commercials from the digital feed, banking on the revenue from their loyal customer base rather than online advertisements.
Modern businesses in the sports writing industry have to understand that the audio medium remains one of the most effective tools available. This is where The Athletic has adapted to the landscape, offering a vast array of generic and targeted podcasts for the benefit of the subscriber. Sports leagues and sports teams are covered in depth with the writers actually transitioning from the keyboard to the microphone to expand on their coverage. As of 2019, 32% of Americans have downloaded a podcast at least once a month, indicating how essential this platform is for the sports industry.
The United States might very well be the central sports hub around the planet, but there is overseas success to be found with The Athletic. Their recent push into the UK and Europe has been a clever ploy to capitalize on these markets, adapting the same business model to consumers who have to deal with rising content prices and traditional commercial broadsheets. By sweeping up much of the writing talent with the English Premier League and European soccer, they have managed to repeat their domestic success with an aggressive push across the pond.
Businesses in the sports writing field have been looking on in envy at the success of The Athletic, but the smart operators should take note of the key lessons that are evident for all to see. It is a brand that is easy to consume, adaptable and catering to everyone with a sports affiliation.