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The Athletic to double women's sports coverage

Nov 22, 2022

Image: Courtesy of The Athletic

The Athletic plans to double its coverage of professional women's sports through a multiyear partnership with Google, its chief commercial officer Seb Tomich told Axios.

Why it matters: Because the readership of The Athletic's parent company — the New York Times — is fairly split between men and women, the Times' ability to bring over more women readers to The Athletic "is a huge advantage," Tomich said.

  • Sports media has traditionally skewed toward men, "but this is something we want to change," he added.

Details: Beginning this week, The Athletic will start to post job openings for a new slate of journalism roles to cover women’s sports specifically, with an initial focus on the WNBA.

  • It will also expand its existing coverage of women's soccer. In January, the newsroom will debut an eight-month project following soccer stars ahead of the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
  • WNBA coverage will include games, but it will also dive into the business side of basketball, including player endorsements, TV deals and cultural moments, like how the detainment of Brittney Griner has impacted the game.

Between the lines: In addition to written articles, the Google deal will provide support for the expansion of women's sports-focused podcasts and newsletters.

  • With the partnership, Google will support paid media to drive audiences to The Athletic's women's sports coverage.
  • Most of that paid promotion will occur on The Athletic and the New York Times sites, but some may occur off-platform, Tomich said.
  • In the future, the company is also eyeing expansion into other women's sports verticals, like golf, tennis and hockey.

Over the course of the multiyear partnership, The Athletic is hoping to double the number of articles written about women's sports from around 900 today to about 1,800.

Between the lines: Traditionally, there hasn't been enough brand spend to support the coverage of women's sports, Tomich said. But there's been "a sizable uptick this year in brands showing interest in supporting women's sports."

  • The Google partnership will help build a broader and stronger audience of women sports fans for The Athletic, which in turn "is a better business."

Be smart: The Times has a long history of working with Google to support major journalism initiatives.

  • For example, it was with Google's backing that the Times made its splashy debut into virtual reality journalism in 2015.

The big picture: The deal represents the latest growth effort for The Athletic under the Times' ownership.

  • Last week, The Athletic announced that it hired the Washington Post's national editor Steven Ginsberg as its first-ever executive editor. "This is a very big moment for the team," Tomich said.
  • In September, The Athletic debuted ads on its website, which was previously only monetized through consumer subscriptions.
  • Advertising, in addition to future partnerships around things like licensing, ticketing and merchandising, will help The Athletic achieve its goal of becoming profitable in the three-year time frame it gave investors when the Times acquired it in January.

Editor's note: This story has been changed to remove a reference that reporters will be hired to cover soccer exclusively, per an updated release from the NYT.

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