New York Times buys San Francisco-based sports site The Athletic for $550 million

The New York Times Co. is buying San Francisco-based sports news site The Athletic for $ 550 million, the latest move in its strategy to expand its audience of paying subscribers as the business of print ads in the newspapers fades.

The Times, unlike many local media outlets, has flourished in recent years. He garnered millions of subscribers during the Trump presidency and the pandemic, keeping him on track toward his previously stated goal of 10 million by 2025.

In the most recent quarter, the Times had nearly 8.4 million. He’s been diversifying his coverage with lifestyle tips, games, and recipes, helping him counter a setback from the 2020 policy-driven news traffic boom.

“We are now seeking a goal significantly greater than 10 million subscriptions and we believe The Athletic will allow us to expand our market of potential subscribers,” New York Times Co. CEO Meredith Kopit Levien said in a press release Thursday.

It is one of the largest acquisitions in the history of the Times. The company spent $ 1.1 billion on the Boston Globe in 1993 and $ 410 million on in 2005, both of which later sold for less.

Digital media has recently taken hold to help them compete for online ad revenue with tech giants like Google and Facebook. German media conglomerate Axel Springer bought Politico; Vox Media is buying Group Nine Media, owner of the Thrillist site and animals The Dodo; BuzzFeed bought HuffPost.

Athletic covers national and local sports: more than 200 teams, according to the Times. It was founded in 2016 and is aimed at sports fans willing to pay for stories. It has 1.2 million subscribers. Its website says it has more than 400 editorial employees, making it a major acquisition for The Times, which has more than 2,000 editorial employees.

The deal is expected to close in the current quarter.

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