Why subscription sports sites have scored early wins

Excerpts from the article by Max Willens on Digiday

As publishers cast about for reader revenue in a tough digital ad market, many are finding that local sports coverage, which attracts especially passionate, engaged readers, is a good game to be in. For that reason, sports has emerged as a critical test case for the proposition the future of digital news lies in reader revenue rather than advertising.

The most prominent player in the space is $48-a-year subscription-based outlet The Athletic, which claims 100,000 subscribers and just closed a $20 million funding round led by Evolution Media, bringing the total amount of capital it’s raised to $30 million. Elsewhere, there’s DK Pittsburgh Sports and the 7-month-old Boston Sports Journal, which charge up to $35 for a year’s subscription. Hook ‘Em, a paywalled sports product that the Austin American-Statesman launched in 2015, claimed 16,000 digital subscribers in the third quarter of last year, costing $3.99 a week in a bundle with its parent paper.

Their growth is also an encouraging sign for publishers who hope to focus on consumer revenue rather than advertising.

“One thing that’s abundantly clear in our industry is that free is not a business model,” said Todd Dybas, one of the co-founders of The Sports Capitol, a Washington, D.C.-focused subscription site that launched this March.

Read the full article on Digiday