The Athletic has been rising in the sports world.
It’s a sports news and content website. It seems to be 100% subscription-based. That means no ads.
If you pay attention to content in the sports world you’ve probably come across mentions of what they’re doing. Local reporters have been moving from local newspapers to The Athletic.
It’s a very interesting change. Newspapers have obviously been struggling. The demand for content, though, has never been higher.
Will The Athletic survive and thrive?
Here are some of my thoughts.
A Way To Consume Content
Here’s the thing with content (video, audio and text), people have never really paid for the content itself…
I know that seems crazy on the surface, but it’s true.
The CD you bought in the ’90s. The song you downloaded from iTunes in the ’00s. The subscription fee you pay Spotify today. It’s never been about the actual music. It’s been about a way to listen to the music.
The book you bought in a store in the ’90s. The book you bought from Amazon in the early ’00s. The ebook you bought in the late ’00s. You weren’t paying for the words. You were paying for a way to read the words.
The theater ticket you bought to see a movie in the ’90s. The DVD you bought in the early ’00s. The Netflix subscription you have now. A way to watch the video.
The natural course of action in our lives is that the way to consume content changes and improves. The cost to consume content goes down. Platforms change. This seems to be the next step in that path.
Entrepreneurs provide value to consumers by adding to what already exists or lowing the price on what already exists. Or both.
I think The Athletic is doing both. They’re charging what seems to be a low price. A few dollars a month. But newspapers and their online counterparts have also been charging low fees. And there is plenty of sports content available online for free.
But The Athletic seems to be providing content that is a step above. They’re collecting the best sports reporters.
And they’re also removing all the ads, which adds to the user experience. It’s like with Netflix. You pay a few dollars a months and experience no ads. For a lot of people that’s better than other options for video content.
The tricky thing with advancement is that you usually have to take a pretty big step to be able to charge more for something. Then it’s a race to the bottom to win customers as far as price is concerned.
The Athletic will have to keep the quality above what sports bloggers are offering for free. Even if a blogger is doing just a little bit below it still might be worth it because it’s free versus paying for just a small step up for what The Athletic is doing.
I also like what The Athletic is doing with their promotion. They’re giving away their product. Free trials. That might be the best way to win customers. Instead of spending, say $10, on advertising you can give away a subscriptions, but at your cost. Say that’s $5 cost to you, but $10 in value to the customer. And you’re getting people to use your product directly. If it’s good, you hook them.
Spotify does this. Lots of businesses do this and it works really well.
The Athletic also seems to be going where the sports attention is. Podcasts, videos, etc. They’re creating all kinds of free content to promote their paid content.
I do think The Athletic will have a fight against branded content. Mainly that would be the sports teams and organizations. The Philadelphia Eagles, for example, can create content on their website, podcasts, YouTube, etc. and not charge a dime for it. They have other revenue sources. Nike can create sports content including coverage of sports teams and use very minimum ads, for their own brand, and charge nothing. And they can make it work because they can sell apparel.
The Athletic could be the Netflix of the sports news world. I like what they’re doing. Especially the no ads portion. I’m curious to see how it works out in the next 5-10 years.