At a time when subscription-based sportswriting is beginning to look like the industry’s future, three writers in Washington D.C. are getting in on the action.
On Monday, Todd Dybas, Ben Standig and Brian McNally launched The Sports Capitol, a website that will cover D.C.’s four major professional sports teams, the Skins, Nationals, Wizards and Capitals, as well as other local sports.
Dybas, the site’s managing editor, told Awful Announcing that the trio was emboldened by what they see as an under-saturated sports media landscape in the nation’s capital. The Washington Post remains a powerhouse, but The Washington Times, where Dybas worked until last month, has drastically cut back its sports department, while NBC Sports Washington no longer covers the Nationals and brings a rights-holder’s perspective to the other three major sports franchises. D.C. is one of the few major markets where The Athletic currently has no presence.
“These are trying, disappointing and confusing times for the sports editorial industry,” Dybas wrote in his introductory post on The Sports Capitol. “What we do know is that the free model doesn’t work. It leads to bad editorial decisions in pursuit of clicks.
“We’re not going to try to build a revenue stream off free labor or by taking someone else’s work, more commonly known as ‘aggregating.’ We will be in locker rooms, at games, at practices, and, selectively, on the road to provide original, independent coverage.”
Dybas says he and his partners have launched The Sports Capitol using their own money, without an angel investor. The site will feature no advertising, instead generating revenue through subscriptions and content sponsorships. In that way, The Sports Capitol’s model is analogous less to the venture capitalist-funded Athletic and more to Dejan Kovacevic’s DK Pittsburgh Sports and Greg Bedard’s Boston Sports Journal.
All three Sports Capitol founders bring sturdy journalistic bona fides to the site. Dybas spent three and a half years as an enterprise reporter at The Washington Times, after previously covering the Seattle Seahawks for The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington. Standig is a longtime freelancer who has reported on local teams for the AP, NBC Sports Washington, FanRag Sports and Scout.com. McNally, also a freelancer, writes for NHL.com, The Richmond Times-Dispatch and the AP.
The Sports Capitol debuted Monday with features, sourced by exclusive interviews, on new Nationals manager Davey Martinez and former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson III, as well as analysis of the Capitals’ trade deadline moves and a piece about Wizards guard Bradley Beal’s leadership. The site also features five new podcasts: one each about the Skins, Nationals, Wizards and Capitals, plus another on local college basketball.
The Sports Capitol’s launch corresponds with a rush to the subscription model across sports media. Only two years after its founding, The Athletic has reached about a dozen U.S. markets (with varying levels of coverage), in addition to every Canadian market with a big-four franchise. DK Pittsburgh Sports, launched in 2014, has made headlines for the wrong reasons recently but still offers proof of concept for subscription-based local sports writing. That site helped inspire Boston Sports Journal, which debuted last July.
Access to The Sports Capitol will cost $5 a month for anyone who subscribes during the site’s first week online and $5.99 a month (or $30 for six months) for those who sign up thereafter.