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David Goldman / AP

The Athletic, a locally-focused, subscription-supported sports publication, announced its expansion into nationwide coverage today with the splashy hires of Stewart Mandel for college football and Seth Davis for college basketball.

What makes it different: The Athletic charges $5.99 a month (or $40 for a full year) to access its content, allowing it to provide a clean ad-free presentation to readers. From Mandel: "The Athletic's subscriber model allows us to focus entirely on high-quality written content. NO ads, NO auto-play videos, NO clickbait."

Why it matters: An AP NORC Center and American Press Institute study earlier this year found that 53% of people are willing to pay for news that suits their interests and fosters a good user experience. Spikes in subscriptions and investments in subscription products across diverse, often-specialized publications like The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The New York Times' cooking section and The Information prove that trend. By investing in a clean user experience and backing it up with quality niche content, The Athletic is hoping to latch onto the trend.

The pedigree: The Athletic came out of prestigious tech incubator Y Combinator last year after its founders saw a lack of focused coverage and analysis in local sports markets — eventually expanding to four cities: Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, and Cleveland. But the Mandel and Davis hires clearly showcase a bigger vision for the company's eventual reach.

How it's going: Per Bloomberg, the company needs between 8,000 and 12,000 subscribers in a city to become profitable. It took 8 months from its mid-2016 Chicago launch to hit 1,000 subscribers, but it grabbed 10,000 subscribers with ease in hockey-crazy Toronto — the only city where it's currently profitable. The rash of new hires comes from a $5.4 million funding round that closed last week.

Changing landscape: Mandel was laid off by Fox Sports last month while Davis was laid off by Sports Illustrated earlier this year — ESPN also notably laid off a number of big name journalists in 2017.

Another trend: These layoffs are happening as a result of both consolidation within the sports media ecosystem and a pivot to video-focused content, which has created an opportunity for smaller, editorially-focused sites to enter the ecosystem. The goal? Often, it's being snapped up by a VC firm or — perhaps ironically, given The Athletic's poaching of laid-off writers — a legacy media outlet looking to connect with a base of intelligent, information-hungry consumers. Think: Turner's 2012 purchase of Bleacher Report and Vox Media's commercial relationship with Bill Simmons' The Ringer that was announced earlier this year.

Go deeper

NATO sends ships, fighter jets to eastern Europe over Russia threat

Service members of Russia's Eastern Military District units attend a welcoming ceremony as they arrive at unfamiliar training ranges in Belarus. Photo: Russian Defence Ministry/TASS via Getty Images

NATO said Monday it's sending more ships and fighter jets to eastern Europe due to Russia's buildup of troops near Ukraine.

Driving the news: "NATO Allies are putting forces on standby and sending additional ships and fighter jets to NATO deployments in eastern Europe, reinforcing Allied deterrence and defense as Russia continues its military build-up in and around Ukraine," per a NATO statement.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

State Department orders evacuation of U.S. diplomats' families from Ukraine

From left, undersecretary for political affairs Victoria Nuland, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. chargés d'affaires in Ukraine Kristina Kvien during a meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Kyiv. Photo: Yevhen Liubimov/ Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The State Department will begin evacuating families and nonessential staff from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv this week, according to a travel advisory published Sunday evening.

The latest: The United Kingdom's Foreign Office announced Monday it was also withdrawing some embassy staff and dependants from Ukraine's capital "in response to the growing threat from Russia," but added the British Embassy would remain open.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

U.K. PM orders inquiry into Muslim lawmaker's discrimination claim

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London, England, last week. Photo: Ian Vogler/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office announced Monday that he's ordered an inquiry into allegations from a Conservative Member of Parliament that she was fired from a ministerial job due to her Muslim faith.

Driving the news: Nusrat Ghani told the Sunday Times she was informed by a government whip that she was fired from her position as a junior transport minister in February 2020 after her "Muslimness was raised as an issue" and that her faith made colleagues feel "uncomfortable."

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