Editor Note: ‘Early Entrants’ is a series of sports business ‘rumblings’ before the news breaks.
Rumors are circulating that the New York Times may – there is no firm plan in place – make its sports-related content available to readers on a standalone subscription basis, as the company looks to expand on its legacy offerings. The logic is that a sports-centric subscription package would provide a boost to the company’s growing digital subscription business (no different than their crossword puzzle subscriptions) and perhaps help the Times to retain its top writers (think: more money for salaries, more opportunities to publish content).
On the surface, the idea makes sense. No newspaper publication in the country has a larger print circulation, so if there is a print publication with the potential to spin-off its sports section into a successful digital media business, it’s the NYT; having some of the industry’s most well-respected journalists on staff (think: Marc Stein, Sopan Deb) wouldn’t hurt their efforts either. But the Times would likely need to rethink its strategy if the plan is to pull the hardcore New York sports fan. As it currently stands, the publication leans more towards off-beat feature stories than day-to-day coverage of the local teams.
Of course, if the goal is to differentiate themselves – which might be a good idea considering that there are a handful of other papers on the local beat and The Athletic hasn’t made a dent in the market doing traditional coverage – there’s no outlet better equipped to tell investigative stories (like MLB’s plans to contract 42 MiLB clubs and the 2017 Astros cheating scandal); and that type of content will only become less prevalent as consolidation within the industry continues.
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