The Athletic has only been in existence since January 2016, launching first with a Chicago-centric site before growing to include sites centered around Toronto, Cleveland and Detroit.
Now, with reports of more big names coming on board, it looks like the subscription-based site has its sights set on a Bay Area version and potentially a national portal.
According to The Big Lead, those names include some very familiar personalities:
Stewart Mandel has already joined the group, per the source. Also expected to be headed that way are Seth Davis and Tim Kawakami. Mandel previously wrote for Sports Illustrated and most recently Fox Sports. Davis was laid off by SI in May, after having been there since 1995.
Today, Kawakami announced he was leaving the Mercury News after 17 years at the newspaper. More big national names are expected to emerge in the coming weeks. The writer Danny Leroux has already been covering the Warriors for The Athletic.
In addition, Kawakami’s fellow Mercury News writer Marcus Thompson will be joining the venture as well. Kawakami and Thompson look likely to be main Bay Area contributors, and indeed it appears as though The Athletic already has a URL registered and ready to go. Visitors to this link are directed to the Chicago page for now, but that’s obviously going to change in the near future.
The Bay Area was always a natural expansion market for The Athletic, rife with teams from all the major sports leagues, plus plenty of people in the site’s target market: those with the money and tech-savviness to invest $6 a month or $40 a year for exclusive online sports coverage. More telling, though, is this section of the TBL report:
The Big Lead has learned from a highly-placed source that national college football and basketball content will be added in the near future, and indications are that they are also ramping up a focus on the Bay Area. Unauthorized to speak publicly on the matter, the source requested anonymity.
The national coverage is a new angle, and while it’s definitely a different direction from The Athletic’s geography-based coverage, doing national coverage with a college sports focus still fits the general business model; high-quality content targeted at a devoted audience. The Athletic already covers college sports local to their markets, so cross-posts to a national site could be in the works, along with exclusive national content.
To that end, in addition to Davis and Mandel, Cleveland Plain Dealer writer Ari Wasserman will be joining The Athletic’s Cleveland site. Previously Wasserman was the Ohio State beat writer for the Plain Dealer.
— Ari Wasserman (@AriWasserman) June 23, 2017
Moving national so quickly is a big step for the venture, especially as the rest of the industry cuts back to an almost alarming degree. Rather than viewing that as a warning sign, The Athletic apparently sees it as a big opportunity, a content void it could perhaps fill in sustainable and successful fashion.
This will be an early test of their reach, but if it goes well, it could pay off in a big way.