NASHVILLE – Two years into its existence, The Athletic is at the forefront of breaking the traditional newspaper business model.
As most newspapers and digital companies search for a common ground between charging readers a subscription fee and offering their content for free on their websites, The Athletic prides itself on providing premium content.
Monday’s “Is The Athletic Right?” general session at the Associated Press Sports Editors conference included Joe Sullivan, sports editor of the Boston Globe, Paul Fichtenbaum, chief content officer of The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal, senior baseball writer for The Athletic, Lauren Reynolds, senior deputy editor of ESPN and Mike Sherman, sports editor of the Tampa Bay Times.
“They’re looking at it and saying, ‘we have to create a better reading experience for our readers,’ ” said Sherman, a former sports editor at The Oklahoman, in regard to The Athletic’s position. “However, if the Athletic comes into Oklahoma City and covers the Sooners better than The Oklahoman, well then shame on us.”
Since its initial launch in 2016, The Athletic is now based in more than 20 markets across the country. The company strives on going beyond the game story to tell informative, unique stories for their subscribers.
Also, The Athletic is ad-free and doesn’t focus too much on SEO metrics or page views.
“We’re not in the SEO game,” Fichtenbaum said. “We’re not producing content so we show up on Google, we’re producing content so we can tell the best stories.”
Earlier this year, Gregory Lee, editorial director of NBA.com, researched The Athletic’s diversity numbers. He found that only four percent of the website’s staff were black, which didn’t include women, or held the position of an editor and 74.6 percent of their staff were white males.
“There is a priority on finding diverse candidates,” Fichetenbaum said. “We’ve been working with NABJ, AAJA, NAHJ as well as AWSM. We’re doing whatever we can to reach out to various groups to make sure we have a diverse workforce. It’s very important to the founders on down.”