My one big problem with The Athletic so far

It seems like with each passing day, The Athletic adds to its stable of writers. Just yesterday I saw that Stewart Mandel and Seth Davis, two of the best college sports writers out there, were launching football and basketball sites under The Athletic umbrella.

But for now, The Athletic is in four cities (Chicago, Toronto, Detroit, Cleveland), with plans to expand into four more, plus those previously mentioned college football and basketball sites.

The pricetag on a subscription and unlimited access to those sites: $40 per year. (Confession: I signed up for the Detroit one for $20 per year)

And with the names and pieces that are so far associated with The Athletic, it seems like a great bargain.

But my biggest issue so far, and it’s something that every site craves and demands in order to get views, as well as justify the cost of joining and convincing advertisers to sign on: Content, or lack of.

As I mentioned, I signed up for the Detroit one, and even though it gives me access to the other sites under the umbrella, I don’t really NEED Chicago, Cleveland, or Toronto coverage.

And since signing up, there has been a massive lack of content to start the site. Here a screengrab of the Detroit homepage, and what’s been posted the past two days:


There’s also the feature story on Michigan State basketball, which was published Monday and is currently at the top of the page. So in two days, they have published four stories. That little thing showing the score of the Tigers-Royals game is just a graphic, there is no gamer, or stats, or highlights, or anything that you can even click on. It’s just a score graphic.

Four stories in two days is not a lot. To give you an idea, the publishing of this bit of opinion will be the fourth thing that has published this week. And I have a full-time job that I need to do work at. Granted, we aren’t doing in-depth reporting, it’s mainly just whatever crap we come up with, but still. We aren’t charging you to see two articles.

Now, that is not knocking the stuff that is actually written, because what has been written is very good. Craig Custance, the managing editor of the Detroit version, had a fantastic piece going inside the Tomas Tatar arbitration, and how he reached his new deal with the Red Wings. It’s a great piece that places like the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, and MLive aren’t giving you.

In fact, since signing up the highest number of stories I’ve seen in a day is four on July 18. That shouldn’t happen in a place like Detroit that has teams in all four major sports, and two of the most recognizable major colleges in the country. Now and again I might click on the sites for the other cities, but as someone who wants Detroit coverage, I don’t care about the White Sox prospects, or what Joe Maddon did on a plane trip. Sure, it’s nice to have that option, but give me more of what I signed up for.

Again, I realize they are working on longer, more in-depth stuff than, “Oh the Tigers lost again last night. Here’s some quotes from Brad Ausmus.” But for $40 to get 2-3 stories a day, that’s kind of hard to justify, especially when a lot of those stories are not for casual sports fans and are directed at niche audience, like the stats crowd for instance.

And I’m sure part of it is that the site has only existed a couple of months, at most, and they are still finding people to fill roles covering these teams from different angles, as well as it being the dead of summer where the only sport actively being played is baseball.

To be honest, I want The Athletic to succeed. There are tons of great writers out there who have been shafted by decisions at places like ESPN, Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, and wherever else. I want there to be places where you can get good stories that are more than churning out a gamer story and adding quotes to it.

Again, hopefully this changes once college football, NFL, NHL, NBA and college hoops gets rolling, but so far with The Athletic, I’m left wanting more.


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