Dec 19, 2023 - Business

The Athletic joins Apple News+

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

The New York Times' subscription sports news site, The Athletic, is joining Apple's paid news app, Apple News+, The Athletic's publisher David Perpich and Apple's senior vice president of services Eddy Cue told Axios.

Why it matters: The New York Times pulled out of its partnership with Apple News in 2020, arguing the deal didn't directly strengthen its relationships with subscribers. Now, Perpich says, it makes "strategic and business sense" for The Athletic to partner with Apple.

  • In deal discussions, The Times considered ways the partnership could get The Athletic "in front of as many people as possible," Perpich said.
  • "When it makes sense to find people who would want to have a direct relationship back," he added. "we hope that over time, they sign up for newsletters or find other ways to make it back to our platform. But in the end, we think of it as being additive."
  • The Times' two biggest national news rivals, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, are both part of Apple News+.

Of note: Wirecutter, a consumer product reviews site owned by The Times, will also be available for in Apple's free news app beginning early next year.

Details: The addition of The Athletic, which is one of the largest sports newsrooms in the world, "works perfectly" in helping Apple News+ deliver more customized content to its subscribers, Cue said.

  • Apple News+ subscribers can identify the leagues and sports teams they're interested in and the app will curate personalized stories based on their interests, Cue said.
  • With more than 450 writers covering specialized sports beats and teams, The Athletic can deliver niche content to fans.

State of play: Since launching over four years ago, Apple News+ has accrued more than 450 publishing partners across digital news sites, magazines and newspapers.

  • It recently added audio articles from Apple News+ publishers to Apple News, as well as crossword puzzles for Apple News+ subscribers.
  • Apple News+ costs $12.99 per month and is available in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia. Apple News is free.
  • Cue declined to provide subscriber numbers for Apple News, but Apple said in a statement that the app "offers millions of people" in the countries where it's available access to its content.

Catch up quick: The Athletic and Wirecutter are both sites that The Times bought and then later integrated into its subscription bundle.

  • The Times bought The Athletic for $550 million in 2022 and it acquired Wirecutter in a deal valued at a little over $30 million in 2016.

The big picture: The Times, in recent years, has pivoted its business strategy to focus on subscription revenue over advertising against lots of free eyeballs online.

  • To date, its strategy has proven effective. The Times surpassed 10 million subscribers across all of its products, which include its core news report, The Athletic, Wirecutter, as well as its Games and Cooking apps.
  • It aims to reach 15 million subscribers across its products by 2027.

What to watch: Perpich said that The Times will not count subscribers to Apple News+ as part of its publicly reported subscriber numbers.

  • As of the end of September, The Times said more than 4 million people were subscribers to The Athletic's site, or bundle subscription that includes the ability to access The Athletic.
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