The Athletic insiders describe article quotas and subscription goals as the sports media startup aims for 1 million subscribers

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  • Three-year-old The Athletic has big ambitions to take on sports media companies like newspapers and Sports Illustrated though a subscription-driven model.
  • Former and current employees described how journalists there have article and subscription quotas and are encouraged to produce stories that can drive hundreds of subscriptions.
  • The journalists said that approach favors stories about big teams and personalities that can be hard for local-focused reporters to deliver on.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Athletic wants to save sports journalists from the struggling print and TV industries.

The site, cofounded in 2016 by Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann, has raised $139.5 million from investors like Comcast Ventures and Bedrock Capital Partners. The Athletic last reported 600,000 subscribers in 2019, doubling its subscribers from 2018, and says it’s nearing 1 million subscriptions. It planned to be profitable this year before the coronavirus shut down live sports and led The Athletic to lay off 8% of its employees, equivalent to 46 journalists.

Business Insider recently spoke with 16 former and two current employees about how The Athletic tries to drive subscriptions, how it measures success, and what makes a hit s

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