Issue No. 234: A sign of things to come.

New Media: Quality, Specialization, Community

Each section of the newspaper is being unbundled into highly-specific, subscription-driven verticals behind paywalls and it’s the next evolution of local media.

We don’t need 5, 10 pieces a day, we don’t need 20 pieces a day in a city, if we can get 3 stories that you can’t get anywhere else in a city, we see unbelievable subscriber yield. That’s the pitch, do great work, be surrounded by the best talent in the market, and great things will happen. We’ll handle the rest, we know how to acquire users beyond your Twitter followers, we know how to find them on Facebook, acquire them, retain them, and we’ll handle the production, we’ll handle the platform, and you just do great work. Frankly, to most folks, that’s refreshing. Some outlets still do great work, but especially at the local level they’re really sliding around figuring out how to make it work for their organization. – Alex Mather, Cofounder of The Athletic

In a recent interview with Ben Thompson (Stratechery), Mather discusses his business model for The Athletic. Even if you aren’t a sports fan, you should still pay attention to what they are building. This is a loose comparison but consider the growing number of subscription-driven media groups and how they’ve disrupted national or local papers. The Information (unbundled “tech”), Stratechery (unbundled “business”), Skift (unbundled “travel”), and TheSkimm (unbundled “lifestyle”) are each making waves. I am adding The Athletic to the tracking list of media groups who’ve embraced the the subscriber sales funnel as a core competency. The Athletic is your local sports section done right or at least that’s the mission.

According to The Athletic, 8,000 – 12,000 subscriptions achieves break even in each metropolitan area covered (Chicago, Toronto, Detroit, Cleveland, and the Bay Area). To get there, their tech stack enables “a paywall, insider access, more advanced analytics, and a mobile experience to differentiate.” As media evolves, optimizing for eCommerce efficacy will become a core competency.

See more of the issue here.

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