Aug 27, 2019

The Athletic is experimenting with free content

The Athletic, a subscription-based digital sports media company, will begin experimenting with putting some of its audio content in front of its paywall in an effort to expand its audience, a source familiar with the plans tells Axios.

What's new: The company will start by offering one episode a week to non-subscribers in front of the paywall and one behind. The goal is to offer people who might be less likely subscribe to The Athletic the ability to sample some of company's content.

  • A small portion of the free audio will include advertising. While this is just an experiment for now, the source notes that the company is likely to ramp up advertising efforts in the future.
  • The company is also launching 40 new podcasts on Tuesday, bringing its total podcast count to around 80 podcasts. By years end, the company hopes to have around 120 podcasts in total.

Our thought bubble: It's hard to market products with hard paywalls because consumers aren't able to sample the product before committing to buying it. While The Athletic does offer free trials and sign-up discounts, this offering really goes after people who never were open to paying to begin with.

The big picture: The Athletic, which started out as a text-based sports media company, has been growing its podcast and video business over the past year as it aims to hit its goal of 1 million paid subscribers by years end.

  • It launched its podcast business in April as a way do more with the company's 400+ sports reporters around the country and in the UK and launched an original video business in May.
  • As of June, the company had over a half million paid subscribers. It expects to grow that number by focusing on expanding its business in the UK as well.

Be smart: The Athletic isn't the only subscription-based site to make this transition. The Information said earlier that it may begin to experiment with advertising.

Go deeper: Traditional sports look to new tech to survive

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