By Ben Everett | Sports Editor
A few months ago, I made the decision to subscribe to The Athletic. It was something I had been thinking about for a while, but I ultimately caved in when an advertisement popped up on my phone regarding a $30 discount for a full-year subscription. I couldn’t resist.
The Athletic is a relatively new (founded in 2016), rapidly growing sports media company that offers great written and video content with some of the best sports reporters out there. The company recently signed NBA breaking news savant Shams Charania and longtime USA Today NBA reporter Sam Amick to its platform in order to attract more basketball fans.
I’ve been thoroughly impressed with what The Athletic has had to offer since I subscribed. I can pull up any story on my phone using the app, and everything I read is high quality.
The Athletic’s model is becoming more popular among major media companies as online journalism is moving away from solely advertisement-based revenue and toward a subscription model. Although this model was popular for print newspapers and magazines, our generation has grown accustomed to getting online content for free. However, subscription-based services like Netflix and Spotify may have paved the way for this model to become popular in journalism.
The general populous is fine with paying a monthly subscription in order to have access to a library of television shows or music, and now it should become the norm to pay for solid written content.
Outside of the sports world, media companies like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal offer subscription-based membership in order to have full access to their entire library of articles. If you don’t pay the subscription, you are subject to a limit on the amount of articles you can read on their websites.
In the sports world, bad content is easy to find. Oftentimes, big media companies are the culprits. I’ve read plenty of sports articles in which I didn’t learn anything new or I completely disagreed with the analysis.
In addition to The Athletic, I pay a monthly subscription to a website called Cleaning the Glass, which provides high-level basketball analysis and statistics. At one point, my go-to websites for sports content were ESPN and Bleacher Report. Now, I always go to The Athletic first because the content is better. When I want in-depth analysis, I go to Cleaning the Glass.
While ESPN still provides a good coverage with scores, stats, broadcast and online streaming, the overall content of these subscription-based services provides better insight. In general, this applies to any comparison between a free service and a paid service: You pay a premium for something that is better.
Earlier this year, ESPN launched a premium subscription service called ESPN+ that offers insider articles, more online coverage of live games and exclusive shows. I have yet to subscribe to this, but it’s definitely something I could see myself buying into if the content is worthy of being paid for. So far, I have heard many complaints about ESPN hiding good content behind a pay wall.
As journalism and the world of content creation move away from advertisements and toward the pay-for-access model, I encourage people to become more comfortable with paying for good reporting and analysis. The writers, reporters and editors who put that content out deserve a more sustainable industry.
Ben is a senior Baylor Business Fellows major from Monroe, La.