The wave of expansion is continuing for The Athletic, which announced Monday that they’re launching six new city/regional verticals (five immediately, one next month) and expanding four others. The new verticals are in Nashville, Indianapolis, New Orleans, the Carolinas, Miami, and Washington, D.C. (with that last one launching in September):
— The Athletic HQ (@TheAthletic) August 20, 2018
They’ve also made some big hires, including Travis Haney (known for his work with ESPN) and Greg Auman (formerly at The Tampa Bay Times):
— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) August 20, 2018
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) August 20, 2018
So thrilled to say that I am the @Titans beat reporter for the brand-new @TheAthleticNSH site. This opportunity means so much to me, personally and professionally. I'm ecstatic to get to work. https://t.co/zdHIz9yAZz
— Travis Haney (@travhaney) August 20, 2018
It’s interesting to see Haney on a NFL beat. Many know him for his work as a national college football reporter at ESPN, but that ended when his contract wasn’t renewed in October 2016. Since then, he’s been involved with some interesting projects, including freelance work and a documentary on Austin Peay’s football team. He also recorded a variety of beat experience before that his ESPN stint, covering the Atlanta Braves, South Carolina Gamecocks, and Oklahoma Sooners, and wrote two books on South Carolina’s 2010 and 2011 national champion baseball teams. As he wrote in his Athletic welcome piece, this particular opportunity felt like a good fit for him given the team he was covering and his connections to Nashville :
All I’ve ever wanted to do is tell stories, using sports as the entry point. Being around a team on a daily basis becomes this magical, romantic thing; it’s a living, breathing organism; the season unfolds like chapters in a book.
My job and my privilege will be to follow the on-the-rise Tennessee Titans and a young nucleus that includes quarterback Marcus Mariota and safety Kevin Byard. Coming off a long-awaited playoff appearance – and victory – in 2017, and with a new coaching staff, a lot of attention is coming the Titans’ way. The 2019 draft spectacle being held here in the spring will only further attract the spotlight.
…To go along with that, this allows me to tether myself to Nashville – a city I love as much as any on earth – in a way that I could not previously. As a national college football reporter, Nashville was my home base, sure, but the nature of that job never really afforded me the opportunity to feel part of the market itself.
Now, following this team, I’ll be able to connect with readers in a different way. I look forward to meetups and events when we can get together and talk Titans.
Haney also noted on his own site that one of the editors responsible for hiring him is Dan Kaufman, who hired him at ESPN in 2012. So he’s with a team of editors he has some familiarity with, and in his Athletic welcome piece, he talked about how enticing he finds the site’s focus on deeper stories. Auman, who’d spent the last 19 years at the Tampa Bay Times (and the last five on the Buccaneers beat) talked about that site focus in his own welcome piece, and also described his own focus on interacting with readers:
It’s so hard in today’s sportswriting world to get a new job without having to move your family or change beats, and I’m so grateful to have that now. My goal is to find the most compelling stories about this Bucs team, to make the extra call to introduce you to the personalities inside the helmets. I want to find the smallest detail to help explain why a play worked or didn’t, why a game was won or lost, why a season surprises us, one way or the other.
I take a lot of pride in being as interactive as possible with readers, answering round-the-clock, all-over-the-map questions on social media. You’ll find out more about me as well: I have a 15-year-old son who knows more about draft prospects than I do, in a cool Encyclopedia Brown kind of way. I will post more food pics than I probably should. And yes, Fletch is the greatest movie ever made.
We’ll see how these new hires and how these new markets work out for The Athletic. But their trend of expansion’s definitely continuing.