NFL

The Athletic Implementing Regional Coverage Defeats the Entire Point of The Athletic

The Athletic went through a round of layoffs on Monday, axing about 20 jobs in a move that included Sixers writer Rich Hofmann.

As it stands, the publication now has:

  • 0 Sixers writers
  • 2 Eagles writers (Zach Berman and Bo Wulf)
  • 1 Flyers writer (Charlie O’Connor)
  • 1 Phillies writer (Matt Gelb)
  • various national guys who will do the occasional Philly story

Mind you, this was a site that once had the best Sixers coverage on the planet, employing Rich, Derek Bodner, and Mike O’Connor at the same time. In a few years, they’ve gone from three Sixers writers to zero.

We can talk about whether or not carrying three single-team writers was sustainable, and whether the subscription model (now with ads) can support itself in 2023, but the most glaring piece of news stems from a Ben Strauss writeup at The Washington Post:

…an additional 20 reporters would be moved from their current team beats to new ones, including regional coverage or general assignment roles.

That strategy marks a departure from the outlet’s onetime mission, which was to cover every team from every major league across the country with a dedicated reporter. The Athletic has been successful editorially, with millions of subscribers, but that coverage — and the travel and staffing associated with it — is expensive.

We’ll have to see how this all shakes out, and what Sixers coverage, or lack thereof, looks like moving forward, but as a general rule, Philadelphia sports fans are not interested in regionalized coverage or general assignment reporting. The whole reason people subscribed to The Athletic in the first place is because they were getting hyper-focused, single-team coverage that was not available in front of the paywall.

Andrew Unterberger nails it here:

You can get general coverage at other sites for free. What The Athletic provided was traveling* beats who were fully immersed in their respective teams. You knew you were gonna get Rich 100% focused on the Sixers and Charlie O’Connor 100% focused on the Flyers. In-depth and detailed hyper-local coverage. That approach is indeed expensive, but the alternative is having the Sixers beat guy now be the Wizards beat guy at the same time, and maybe you give him or her the Nets beat as well. Philly sports fans aren’t interested in a hypothetical like that. Adjusting the model in this way renders the site pointless. It turns The Athletic into Fox Sports dot com, but behind a paywall, and also with display advertising.

More layoffs may have been necessary from a business sense, but if this is the future of The Athletic, it defeats the entire purpose. It just becomes another sports website.

 

*sometimes, but not always

Kevin Kinkead
Kevin has been writing about Philadelphia sports since 2009. He spent seven years in the CBS 3 sports department and started with the Union during the team's 2010 inaugural season. He went to the academic powerhouses of Boyertown High School and West Virginia University. email - kevin.k@xlmedia.com
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