The Athletic is a subscription-based website focusing on in-depth reporting about Toronto’s four main sports teams: the Leafs, Raptors, Jays, and Toronto Football Club.
“We don’t have advertising, we rely on subscription revenue. That’s probably the biggest difference between what us and the newspapers are doing,” said editor-in-chief James Mirtle.
Having a subscription-based website makes it hard to compete with free content, but Mirtle said people are willing to pay when you have a staff of talented sports writers.
“We write long in-depth articles. You can’t find that on Twitter. The subscribers that we have so far just like the writers we have,” said Mirtle. “They like reading what I do, or what John Laws and Eric Koreen writes. That’s where our subscription base has come from so far. Hopefully it continues to grow.”
It’s not about age; it’s about having an audience and for us being able to get people to subscribe and read their content.
With a crop of talented young sports reporters, The Athletic has an advantage in reaching the adolescent sports fan, according to Mirtle. “We have a younger staff than a newspaper typically would,” said Mirtle. “We have people still in school or just out of school that are writing for us and our readership is very young as well.”
“We have guys such as Scott Wheeler and Israel Fehr who are under 25, but they all have extensive experience and big followings on Twitter and their websites,” said Mirtle. “They have established themselves as people that readers want to read. That’s the most important thing to us. It’s not about age; it’s about having an audience and for us being able to get people to subscribe and read their content.”
“We’re trying to find talent in terms of writers, we’re trying to develop talent, and we’re trying to get the quality of the articles we put out to be as high as possible,” he said.
We’re trying to find talent in terms of writers, we’re trying to develop talent, and we’re trying to get the quality of the articles we put out to be as high as possible.
Mirtle left the Globe and Mail a few months ago to become editor-in-chief of The Athletic. He said that even though he is happy with his decision, there have been some challenges that come along with launching a small company.
“The challenges have been figuring out how our infrastructure is going to function, how we’re going to get the editing done and things posted,” said Mirtle. “I’m trying to write four times a week, I’ve been going on the road with the Leafs a little bit, so trying to run an organization, while doing what I did at the Globe following the Leafs, has been challenging.”
Mirtle said he believes that putting in the hard work and going through these challenges is what will result in the best possible product. He said that if you’re willing to do it right, it will all pay off in the end.
“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “We have big time goals as to where we want to be a year or two from now in terms of how many writers we have, and the level of quality of coverage we’re providing. I think it is going to be much higher the longer we go along here.”