While others downsize, The Athletic raises money to expand

Many digital-media startups have been cutting back or downsizing, but The Athletic is going in the opposite direction: The two-year-old sports media company—which gets 100 percent of its revenue from subscriptions, and concentrates on providing smart commentary rather than breaking news—announced on March 5 that it has raised a $20-million round of funding and is preparing to more than double its staff and expand to new markets:

Two years after launching as ‘the new sports page,’ the Athletic has raised $20 million, according to Athletic co-founder and Chief Executive Alex Mather. The funding round, the company’s third, was led by Evolution Media, the growth-stage investment company founded by TPG Growth and Creative Artists Agency. Before this round, the Athletic raised $10 million in two rounds led by Courtside Ventures. The Athletic plans to use most of the financing to continue its expansion across the U.S., establishing a presence in every market with a professional sports team by the end of the year.

By the end of 2018, The Athletic says it plans to have between 200 and 350 employees, up from its current staff of 120. It is currently in 23 markets across the US and Canada, and plans to expand to roughly 45 markets by the end of the year. Focusing on a news vertical with passionate fans seems to be making the difference for the company, which isn’t as dependent on the shrinking digital advertising market as some of its web-based competitors.

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Mathew Ingram is CJR's chief digital writer. Previously, he was a senior writer with Fortune magazine. He has written about the intersection between media and technology since the earliest days of the commercial internet. His writing has been published in The Washington Post and the Financial Times as well as Reuters and Bloomberg.