Global soccer insider Fabrizio Romano reportedly nearly joined The Athletic’s staff of sports news breakers this year.
Reeves Wiedeman of New York Magazine broke the news in a feature on The Athletic’s senior NBA insider, Shams Charania. Around the same time they made their move to hire Dianna Russini to head up NFL intel, The Athletic “came close” to hiring Romano as well.
Romano has never worked for one company full-time. He currently writes for The Guardian, hosts a podcast for Wondery on the Men in Blazers network, streams live for Kick, and operates his own lucrative YouTube and TikTok channels. He has nearly 44 million followers combined across X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram.
An Athletic executive acknowledged to Wiedeman the trappings of chasing social media information distributors for traditional journalism jobs:
“It was hard to wrap your mind around, ‘Wait, 90 percent of (Charania’s) value is on another platform?’”
A former business staffer at The Athletic also admitted that with Charania and others like him, their employers are chasing marketing clout in addition to news-breaking.
“There’s basically a marketing cost priced in,” the staffer told Wiedeman. “Every time one of Shams’s tweets gets projectiled around the world in front of tens of millions of people, you’re saving tons of money.”
The fact that The Athletic (and its parent company, The New York Times) chased Romano is fascinating. He, even more than Charania or Russini, is purely in the news nugget content game, primarily on social media.
Romano’s most recent article for The Guardian was a few hundred words with details of a failed drug test by Udinese star Paul Pogba and a quote from his agent.
He does not write features or profiles or even do interviews. He rarely analyzes the game of soccer at all.
But The Athletic wanted him anyway, likely because they seem to believe news-breaking is their key to profitability under new ownership. Oh, and maybe the marketing too.