Evolving Sports Content w/The Athletic SVP/GM Evan Parker
Journalism in all forms is constantly evolving as consumer demands change, and the sports industry is no different. For decades, the way sports fans kept up with everything going on with their favorite teams (besides watching the games that you could) happened like this:
• Watch SportsCenter (probably multiple times).
• Subscribe to magazines such as Sports Illustrated or ESPN The Magazine.
• Catch the beat reporter’s insights in the newspaper.
For the longest time (sorry, Billy Joel), that was basically it. You subscribed to a cable tier to have ESPN and other sports channels, you paid for more subscriptions to magazines to fuel your sports interest, and you read the newspaper. If you were like WorkInSports VP of Content and Engaged Learning Brian Clapp, perhaps you also scratched your itch for quality storytelling by purchasing a collection of sports books. The point is you paid to consume sports content, and that’s just how things were.
Evan Parker, The Athletic’s Senior Vice President and General Manager, joined Brian Clapp on the WorkInSports Podcast to discuss how The Athletic has managed to thrive despite the struggles that disrupted or outright toppled several titans of sports content that are laid out below.
Enter the Internet
The introduction, improved performance, and “free” nature of the internet upended every business model of sports consumption. Suddenly, all the content you paid for individually was at your fingertips, with only an internet bill to pay for it. Magazines went online, struggled to maintain subscriptions, and several shut down permanently. As time went on and streaming apps became prominent, even ESPN’s media empire faced diminished profits as consumers started cutting the cords to bloated cable bundles.
Newspapers got it the worst of anyone. In 2006, 74,410 people were employed in the newspaper industry. By 2020, that number was cut in more than half to a total of 30,820. The sports section was not immune from those trends, and several prominent beat writers with large online followings were shown the door.
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Fighting (and Winning) Against the Tide
With a decade-long downward trend in subscription-based models, The Athletic entered the fray in January of 2016. The Athletic saw prominent reporters and writers being shed from their posts at newspapers and brought them into the fold, with their expertise (and audience) migrating to the publication. While manufactured debates and hot takes are available for free on most sports websites, The Athletic offers well-crafted stories, thorough reporting, and trustworthy talent that has thrived with its sports content even behind a paywall.
The story of how The Athletic found its niche is fascinating, and we’re glad to discuss the publication’s success with SVP/GM Evan Parker, covering topics such as:
1. How the content philosophy of The Athletic has worked despite the challenges this model faces.
2. What the job landscape looks like for sports content creators.
3. How to break into and advance in this part of the sports industry.
Catch the full episode up top on this page or wherever you listen to the WorkInSports Podcast, and be sure to subscribe to catch more experts like Evan share their experience. If you enjoy visuals, we have you covered on our YouTube channel!
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