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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Rosenthal: Welcome to our expanded coverage of major league baseball – The Athletic

I have occasionally posted stuff from The Athletic over the last few months. Sorry to tell the people who haven’t jumped on-board yet but I’ll probably be posting more stuff going forward. They just have too much talent to ignore.

I see local sportswriters lamenting the loss of newspaper jobs due to the Internet. Although I feel for them, the classic newspaper model is dying. The old classified ad cash cow is pretty much dead and it’s not coming back. People also just don’t buy newspapers anymore. I used to buy the Boston Herald, the Boston Globe, and the Providence Journal. I haven’t bought one copy in over 10 years. I’m not going back.

The Athletic has an interesting model and we’ll see how their play turns out when they go through their investors’ money. After subscribing a few months ago, I’ve watched them add an impressive list of writers. For my money I get pretty good value. If the value continues to improve, I’ll keep subscribing. Since I don’t believe I’m entitled to free content and writers deserve to be paid fair compensation for their work, I hope their model works. We’ll see.

(Just in case anyone is wondering…I’m not getting paid to encourage you to subscribe. I just like what I see from the site.)

When I joined The Athletic last Aug. 23, I never imagined that I would end up teammates with many of the best baseball writers in North America. We already had five city verticals—Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto and the Bay Area—and were planning to expand to Philadelphia. Our baseball coverage in most of those cities already was quite good. But as a company, we were just getting started, taking deliberate, strategic steps. The idea that we would become a baseball-writing powerhouse within six months was the furthest thing from my mind.

Well, it’s happening.

Start with the great Jayson Stark, formerly of ESPN.com, a friend and one of my heroes in the business for more than 30 years. No baseball writer loves the game or sees the game like Jayson. His work bursts with humor, creativity and insight, and now his useless info—and useful info—will be available only on The Athletic. I’m almost shaking with excitement, knowing we will be working together for the first time. Jayson will start on April 1.

Our national staff also includes J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Peter Gammons, former major league general manager Jim Bowden and the head of our own analytics department, Eno Sarris. The editor of our baseball coverage will be Emma Span, who previously worked at Sports Illustrated. And yesterday we announced regular coverage of 20 of the 30 major league clubs this season, with a roster that amounts to an All-Star team.

Jim Furtado Posted: February 13, 2018 at 11:11 AM | 46 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: media

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. mathesond Posted: February 13, 2018 at 11:51 AM (#5624202)
Looks like a strong, veteran lineup.
   2. The usual palaver and twaddle (Met Fan Charlie) Posted: February 13, 2018 at 12:03 PM (#5624216)
I know from a provincial standpoint, their NY beat writers are top-notch: Marc Carig (Yankees; formerly Mets beat for Newsday), Tim Britton (Mets; formerly Red Sox beat for the Providence Journal) & Lindsey Adler (both; formerly Deadspin).
   3. Benji Gil Gamesh VII - The Opt-Out Awakens Posted: February 13, 2018 at 12:21 PM (#5624241)
Looks like a strong, veteran lineup.
But are they in the best shape of their life?
   4. JJ1986 Posted: February 13, 2018 at 12:24 PM (#5624244)
Looks like a strong, veteran lineup.
plus Jim Bowden.
   5. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: February 13, 2018 at 12:38 PM (#5624255)
But are they in the best shape of their life?

Considering we're talking about sportswriters....

---

Athletic started strong in Chicago, so I've been a subscriber for a while now. It was worth it just for that piece, for me.
   6. 6 - 4 - 3 Posted: February 13, 2018 at 01:38 PM (#5624318)
Subscribed earlier today. I knew the content would be first class, but didn't realize that the site layout and customizability would be so awesome.

You can subscribe now for 50% off first year (so $30 off first year and then $60/year after).
   7. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: February 13, 2018 at 03:05 PM (#5624415)
But are they in the best shape of their life?

Considering we're talking about sportswriters....



...what life?
   8. Hotel Coral Esix Snead (tmutchell) Posted: February 13, 2018 at 05:04 PM (#5624543)
I signed up when they got Rosenthal, Gammons and Neyer (at least for a guest spot), but if they didn't have a NY beat writer by the start of spring training I would have had to reconsider. That should be a good bump for them, now that they have someone to serve the largest market in the country. Good for them.
   9. Astroenteritis Posted: February 13, 2018 at 05:51 PM (#5624560)
I signed up today as they've added Houston to the mix. It's a good sign that I went from one article to next on a wide range of topics and just kind of lost track of time.
I don't pay for any other online subscriptions right now, but this one seems worth it.
   10. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: February 13, 2018 at 06:14 PM (#5624571)
Looks like a strong, veteran lineup.


Hopefully people aren't paying too much for their decline phase.

If we base it on QWR (my own, just made up on the spot Quality Writing above Replacement metric where 2.5 is replacement Writer level), then the decline phase would be something like this

ages 35-40 QWR 5
ages 40-45 QWR 4.5
ages 45-50 QWR 4
ages 50-55 QWR 3.5
ages 55-60 QWR 3
ages 60-65 QWR 2.5

You don't really want to be stuck with that inevitable decline around 60-65 or you end up with the ramblings of a Bill James or Gammons where the quality of work really starts to decline. Unless you can invest in an Angell then you are pretty much onto the Ted Williams or Barry Bonds of writing.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: February 13, 2018 at 06:52 PM (#5624600)
If we base it on QWR

$/QWR has been plummeting for a decade or more now of course ... presumably so has revenue/QWR. The only people who really care any more are the gamblers. Today's over/under in Vegas on the number of Gammons' "Crudales" is 3.5
   12. ptodd Posted: February 13, 2018 at 07:24 PM (#5624613)
At least newspapers give you a free sample on line. I'm not paying to read about baseball. I'll pay for stats like BRPI.

Maybe I'll change my mind if they end up monopolizing the business and the free stuff dries up
   13. . . . . . . Posted: February 13, 2018 at 07:27 PM (#5624615)
That's a stupid high price for beat writing and lowest common denominator columnists. Have fun with that business model.
   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 13, 2018 at 09:39 PM (#5624651)
That's a stupid high price for beat writing and lowest common denominator columnists. Have fun with that business model.

$40/year is high? What planet are we on?

I just subscribed today for like $3.50 per month.
   15. shoewizard Posted: February 13, 2018 at 09:42 PM (#5624653)
Honestly there is so much I want to read (not just sports/baseball) that is behind paywalls that if I subscribed to all of it, it would cost me over 1000 bucks a year, I'm not kidding.

   16. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: February 14, 2018 at 12:56 AM (#5624680)
If you had to just pick one, though, pick The Athletic. They're fantastic.
   17. . . . . . . Posted: February 14, 2018 at 07:42 AM (#5624714)
$40/year is high? What planet are we on?


Welp, the long term number I’ve seen is $60. In a world where the Times is $143 per year long term and comes with, ya know, the New York Times along with decent sports coverage, $60 is just nuts. Writing just isn’t worth that much.
   18. eddieot Posted: February 14, 2018 at 07:42 AM (#5624716)
I work in the media and spend half my workdays reading stuff online. I only subscribe to about 5 pay sites, one of them being The Athletic. Worth every penny and as mentioned above, a very reader-friendly interface. It's easy to lose track of half a day there.
   19. 6 - 4 - 3 Posted: February 14, 2018 at 12:07 PM (#5624908)
It's $30 for a year. I'll see how I like it and decide whether to re-up after the season. Curious about their coverage of local college sports, which surprisingly is not well covered in these parts (quantity is there, but not the quality).
   20. cardsfanboy Posted: February 14, 2018 at 06:16 PM (#5625197)
$40/year is high? What planet are we on?


I'm not agreeing with the original poster, but considering the number of subscriptions many of us have now, they have a tendency to add up... Individually none of the subscriptions are much, but collectively they do add up rather rapidly(Right now I have Netflix, Amazon, SlingTV, Marvel Unlimited, bb-ref, Microsoft Office, and a couple of others...not counting service providers, web hosts, drop box, or anything else---and I'm still considering britbox and ultimately the Disney/Marvel subscription service.) I think at some point there is going to be an over-saturation of the market(if not already) where people are going to be dropping many of these services, as it is right now, they are fast becoming specialized, and that is cool, you get what you want, but specialization should be cheaper than the $10 a month that Netflix (or others) has established for a broad entertainer.

Honestly there is so much I want to read (not just sports/baseball) that is behind paywalls that if I subscribed to all of it, it would cost me over 1000 bucks a year, I'm not kidding.


Exactly.... at some point these guys will need to get gobbled up by bigger broader guys just to justify the consumer spending.
   21. Hank Gillette Posted: February 14, 2018 at 07:34 PM (#5625259)
You can subscribe now for 50% off first year (so $30 off first year and then $60/year after).


That seems to have gone away. Now the deal is 25% off, $3.74 a month.

I think I would need a free week at least, to decide whether I wanted to subscribe.
   22. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 14, 2018 at 08:44 PM (#5625277)
I think I would need a free week at least, to decide whether I wanted to subscribe.

They're offering a free week.
   23. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: February 15, 2018 at 02:44 AM (#5625336)
But is there a comments section where I can make shitty jokes that nobody will ever read? That's what really moves me.
   24. manchestermets Posted: February 15, 2018 at 04:46 AM (#5625337)
$60 is just nuts. Writing just isn’t worth that much.


$17 million: nothing. A dollar and change a week: are you ####### kidding me?
   25. dejarouehg Posted: February 15, 2018 at 08:10 AM (#5625348)
$17 million: nothing. A dollar and change a week: are you ####### kidding me?


Well said!
   26. . . . . . . Posted: February 15, 2018 at 08:41 AM (#5625352)
A dollar and change a week for something other people are giving away for free is still pissing money away. Sports journalism just isn’t worth that much because too many people want to do it for a living and are willing to work for nothing. Buyer’s market.

There are, for sure, a handful of folks producing content that’s uniquely good and worth paying for...but not the old access merchants. That sort of info has been devalued to zero.
   27. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 15, 2018 at 09:02 AM (#5625358)
[23] Yes!
   28. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 15, 2018 at 09:04 AM (#5625359)
A dollar and change a week for something other people are giving away for free is still pissing money away. Sports journalism just isn’t worth that much because too many people want to do it for a living and are willing to work for nothing. Buyer’s market.


If you regularly read someone's work, and get value from it, you should be willing to pay for it. Even if you can get it for free.
   29. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: February 15, 2018 at 09:09 AM (#5625360)
at some point these guys will need to get gobbled up by bigger broader guys just to justify the consumer spending


That's probably in the business plan. And when it happens, we'll complain that the only way to get The Athletic is to buy a bunch of crap we don't want. And then someone will argue that people buying the crap you don't want are actually subsidizing The Athletic. That will be a fun thread.
   30. . . . . . . Posted: February 15, 2018 at 09:30 AM (#5625367)
If you regularly read someone's work, and get value from it, you should be willing to pay for it. Even if you can get it for free.


No, it means your shouldn’t steal it. For example, you shouldn’t use VPNs to sneak past a paywall.

But if work is given away for free then there’s no reason to pay for it. If two coffee shops open up next door to each other, and one gives away coffee and the other charges $4 for ‘better’ coffee, I don’t have a moral obligation to pay $4.
   31. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 15, 2018 at 10:24 AM (#5625417)

No, it means your shouldn’t steal it. For example, you shouldn’t use VPNs to sneak past a paywall.

But if work is given away for free then there’s no reason to pay for it. If two coffee shops open up next door to each other, and one gives away coffee and the other charges $4 for ‘better’ coffee, I don’t have a moral obligation to pay $4.


if you want that coffee shop to be there very long, you need to pay for it.
   32. . . . . . . Posted: February 15, 2018 at 11:00 AM (#5625448)
something tells me there is a near-infinite supply of people who are willing to write about sports for free.
   33. dave h Posted: February 15, 2018 at 11:13 AM (#5625461)
I just subscribed using the 50% off deal (not sure if it's really gone away - I saw lots of different deals but only found the 50% off in a Facebook ad). If it's reliably good content then $30 for a year is a steal - you're paying not just for good stuff but also to not have to wade through the rest of the crap. It's the same reason I often pay a small premium at a local toy store. I also think "pay what you like" models are reasonable, as they're just a way to price discriminate.

That said, I'm a little disappointed with the Athletic so far. I don't know if it's because I chose Boston teams, which don't have coverage, but they're feeding me old stories. I'd rather a current generic story than a month-old Celtics article. They do make it easy to rate their stories (on essentially a 1-3 scale) so I wonder how much input that will have (either on the writing or on what I personally see).
   34. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 15, 2018 at 11:18 AM (#5625464)
something tells me there is a near-infinite supply of people who are willing to write about sports for free.

So we should exploit them?

Because some people are willing to work for free, no one should be able to earn a living writing about sports?
   35. 6 - 4 - 3 Posted: February 15, 2018 at 11:34 AM (#5625481)
something tells me there is a near-infinite supply of people who are willing to write about sports for free.

Yeah, but they don't have professional editors (not just copy editing, but content area expertise).

Like on comment sections (this site or others like Fangraphs), there are some posters who frequently right extremely long missives that contain good information, but could use a professional editor to make it more concise and to the point. One doesn't need 1000 words to convey every single good idea.
   36. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: February 15, 2018 at 12:00 PM (#5625495)
Yeah, but they don't have professional editors (not just copy editing, but content area expertise).


I'd listen if they called.

(I complain every few weeks about editing fails in this or that book I'm reading. Just finished a new one on the 1917 Halifax explosion, published by William Morrow, that treated readers to a multi-clause incomplete sentence, among other assaults on literacy, like "to" repeated. Jesus.)
   37. . . . . . . Posted: February 15, 2018 at 12:25 PM (#5625510)
So we should exploit them?

Because some people are willing to work for free, no one should be able to earn a living writing about sports?


Basically, yes. Pretty much anyone with enough writing ability to become a sportswriter could've made a decent living in another field that isn't so sexy. People choose to go into sports journalism because they like sports, the prestige of the job is much better than the pay, and you get cool perks from time to time. (Really, that's why people go into journalism of all kinds.) No one is forced to become a sportswriter.

It's a bit different if you were talking about a field where the labor had no choice but to enter it - I'm not so hot on exploiting unskilled labor, for example. But if people free-will decide to go into an industry where the pay is crap, that's their problem. Don't become a chef and then complain your clothes smell of food.
   38. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: February 15, 2018 at 01:03 PM (#5625539)
I disagree with the popular notion nowadays that nobody should have a job as a sportswriter, or a musician, or an artist, etc. That seems, to me, to be bad. SB Nation, relying on overworked people doing the job in their spare time who increasingly resent that their once-fun blog hobby has morphed into them working for peanuts for Vox Media, is bad. The Athletic is good.

The Athletic is a great thing to subscribe to. I also subscribe to the local newspaper (weekends only). I think local newspapers will survive but there is no need for them to be daily. The local alt-weekly disappears and becomes free-floating online things, the local newspaper becomes twice-weekly, that will work.
   39. manchestermets Posted: February 15, 2018 at 01:39 PM (#5625561)
something tells me there is a near-infinite supply of people who are willing to write about sports for free.


Something tells me that if only people who can afford to do so for free write about sports, the quality of the writing will plummet.
   40. Rally Posted: February 15, 2018 at 01:40 PM (#5625562)
Yeah, but they don't have professional editors (not just copy editing, but content area expertise).


Do the writers on Athletic use professional editors? I don't think I've ever seen a Gammons article that looks like it was edited.
   41. This is going to be state of the art wall Posted: February 15, 2018 at 01:49 PM (#5625568)
something tells me there is a near-infinite supply of people who are willing to write about sports for free.


yea but they don't have access, which is still important. The White Sox coverage on the Athletic's Chicago section is well worth the $5/m. You get interviews with players and coaches that the Sun Times and Tribune have for the most part long ago decided was not worth the salary of the reporter. They actually had a reporter assigned to Eloy Jimenez last year and that was when I decided to subscribe. When Fegan (the reporter) got the video of Eloy calling his shot pregame and launched "the besssss" meme it made the whole year's sub fee more than worth it.

The Athletic has made a bet that people will still pay (nominally granted) for primary sourced coverage (and analysis at times like SB Nation blogs). I think it's a good bet.
   42. . . . . . . Posted: February 15, 2018 at 02:17 PM (#5625592)
disagree with the popular notion nowadays that nobody should have a job as a sportswriter, or a musician, or an artist, etc. That seems, to me, to be bad.


People can have a job doing that, but they earn the fair value of their work like the rest of us schlubs (or, if the we collectively decide that work has merit and should be supported beyond its economic value, government can address that with subsidies, tax breaks, etc.)

The point is that a guy who gave up his dream to man a desk doesn't owe charity to the guy who's still chasing the dragon.
   43. PreservedFish Posted: February 15, 2018 at 02:38 PM (#5625609)
But if people free-will decide to go into an industry where the pay is crap, that's their problem. Don't become a chef and then complain your clothes smell of food.


What if they decided to go into an industry where the pay wasn't crap that has since been totally disrupted by new technology and such?
   44. . . . . . . Posted: February 15, 2018 at 03:05 PM (#5625632)

What if they decided to go into an industry where the pay wasn't crap that has since been totally disrupted by new technology and such?


Is there really any industry like that? Journalism was a vanity job even 20 years ago. So was music.
   45. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: February 15, 2018 at 05:14 PM (#5625733)
You're honestly asking "is there really any industry" where jobs have gone from being good to being bad because of disruption from new technology?
   46. 6 - 4 - 3 Posted: February 15, 2018 at 07:26 PM (#5625789)
Do the writers on Athletic use professional editors? I don't think I've ever seen a Gammons article that looks like it was edited.

Well the SF Bay Area certainly does (there are three editors on that beat alone).

Emma Span (formerly of SI and Jay Jaffe's wife) is the managing editor of the national baseball coverage team.

As for Gammons... I don't know. Maybe not even the staff wants to read his stuff anymore? I don't read him, but all of the other writing seems professionally polished (e.g., Eno Sarris' writing is crisper at The Athletic than it was at Fangraphs).

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