On The Tite Report, we’ve reported again and again how people will pay for good content.
For example: people literally forgo sleep in order to get their dose of Netflix in.
Despite what some may say about news publications going downhill (because yes, even online hubs like Yahoo are cutting down on staff), there’s still something to be said about those that just produce good content that packs in a good experience.
Increasingly, The Athletic has become that. The online sports publication has recently pulled together an extra $5.8 million in new capital from investors.
Most surprisingly of all, it has no plans to sell advertising.
So we’ll say it again, why does this matter? Because good content matters.
This is what captured our minutes this week.
1. The Athletic shows how old can become new again, even in the publishing world.
A prevailing notion in today’s content space is that stuff is just accessible. We’ve got the internet, we’ve got streaming, we know how to get around pay walls.
Subscribe to a news publication? Yeah, right.
In this case however, subscription works. Take a look at the success of subscription products like FabFitFun, Blue Apron (or even Amazon’s interest in meal-kits), HBO, or Spotify.
People are going back to subscriptions because they’re clutter free.
As Bloomberg explained, The Athletic’s challenge was justifying it’s $40 annual subscription fee. Who puts that high of a price tag on only part of a newspaper when one could get the whole paper for less than that?
Well, it comes down to quality control as you’ll find out below.
2. The sports publication’s online success is a great case study in user experience.
People hate ads. If you google online ad blocking, you’ll get countless stats on why people will leave websites if forced to watch ad, how many people have adblockers on desktop and mobile devices, and just how ubiquitous the technology is across the world.
Luckily for The Athletic fans, they won’t see any of that.
When a subscriber first dives in, he or she can select teams of interest. Then, that subscriber will only get content focused on those teams.
In fact, the main story will always only be one story about one of those previously selected teams. According to Bloomberg, The Athletic only posts a few articles about each city a day and focuses “on analysis rather than breaking news.”
Bloomberg said it: it’s “a serene affair.” In a world where news publications are desperately clinging to ad dollars and that brand you googled only 60 seconds ago is all of a sudden all over your screen, The Athletic offers fans a break.
This matters because it makes readers feel like they’ve got access to exclusive information within an exclusive experience. It’s comfortable. It’s pleasant.
Instead of being hit over the head repeatedly by content, readers get what they want, when they want. Not too little, and not too much. Just the right stuff.
3. It highlights the responsibility for brands and publishers alike to maintain quality content.
As we mentioned above, The Athletic takes its time to report. It doesn’t jump all over every last thing, because that’s what every other sports publication tries to do.
Instead it looked at getting the right writers (formerly from the likes of ESPN, Sports Illustrated and more, who could bring with them loyal readers), sliced and diced content in the forms of podcasts, video content and more and provides player ratings after each game and
All this stuff contributes to the quality of its content. The Athletic wants to give sports fans a nuanced approach in a very noise-filled arena (no pun intended).
As other publishers or brands begin to look at the content they produce, quality should be top of mind. Why is it something that people need, can connect with and is better than what others are offering (especially if for cheaper)?
So what can brands learn from the experience that The Athletic delivers? Keeping on track with creating high-profile, detailed content will attract audiences. And consequently, their minutes.
Oh, and don’t pitch slap people.
Even The Athletic doesn’t mind trading ad revenue for a more loyal, albeit smaller, following.
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