The Times & The Athletic Are Getting Hot and Heavy

New York Times
Photo by Gary Hershorn/Corbis via Getty Images
Dylan Byers
December 17, 2021

I first heard about The Athletic some four years ago from Apple executive and Golden State Warriors and Duke megafan Eddy Cue, and I was immediately enchanted by the founders’ vision. Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann, who had met while working on the performance sports app Strava, seemed to intuitively understand what local newspaper executives had long realized: that sports fans were a sticky and insatiable audience, eager to read anything written about their favorite teams, even if that meant three articles about a game they’d already watched or a free-agency pursuit that was never going to materialize. 

They also knew that the local sports reporters who fed those appetites were victims of a rapidly declining local news business, criminally underpaid, and already establishing direct relationships with their own unique fandoms over social media. So Mather and Hansmann seized the moment, snapping up some of the nation’s best team beat reporters, market by market, with a few million dollars in seed funding. Their ambition, Mather said, was “to be the local sports page for every city in the country.” It was an ambitious and smart idea. 

In those early days, the duo had the moxie that usually comes from founders who know they are the beneficiaries of a new paradigm shift. “We will wait every local paper out and let them continuously bleed until we are the last ones standing,” Mather told The New York Times in 2017, betraying an unapologetically killer instinct that many journalists found uncomfortable but many investors nevertheless appreciated. “We will suck them dry of their best talent at every moment. We will make business extremely difficult for them.”