The New York Times Co. is buying sports news site The Athletic for $ 550 million, the latest step in its strategy of growing its audience of paying subscribers as the newspaper advertising business dwindles.
In contrast to many local news agencies, the Times has developed successfully in recent years. It gained millions of subscribers during the Trump presidency and pandemic and kept it on track to meet its previously stated goal of 10 million by 2025.
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The Times recorded just under 8.4 million in the last quarter. It has diversified its coverage with lifestyle advice, games, and recipes to counter a retreat from the policy-driven news traffic boom of 2020.
“We are now pursuing a goal well beyond 10 million subscriptions and believe that The Athletic will enable us to expand our addressable market of potential subscribers,” said Meredith Kopit Levien, CEO of the New York Times Co., in an Press release on Thursday.
It is one of the Times’s largest acquisitions of all time. The company spent $ 1.1 billion on the Boston Globe in 1993 and $ 410 million on About.com in 2005, which it later sold for less.
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Digital media has been consolidating lately to help them compete for online advertising revenue with tech giants like Google and Facebook. The German media group Axel Springer bought Politico; Vox Media Acquires Group Nine Media, Owner of Thrillist and Tier Site The Dodo; BuzzFeed has bought HuffPost.
Based in San Francisco, The Athletic covers national and local sports – more than 200 teams, according to the Times. It was founded in 2016 and has 1.2 million subscribers. The website says it has over 400 editorial staff, making it a major acquisition for The Times, which employs more than 2,000 editorial staff.
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It’s a bit ironic that an emerging sports media company is being bought out by one of the world’s largest legacy media companies. Alex Mather, co-founder of The Athletic, said in a 2017 interview with The Times: “We’re going to wait and see every local paper and keep it bleeding until we’re the last. We will suck their best talents from them. ”At any moment. We’ll make it extremely difficult for them to do business. “
The two sides began discussing an agreement last summer before talks broke down. The Athletic also held talks with Axios last year.
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Upon completion of the sale, expected in the current quarter, The Athletic will be a subsidiary of Times Co. and operate separately. Mather will remain as General Manager and Co-President and Co-Founder Adam Hansmann as Chief Operating Officer and Co-President.