The tactics behind The Athletic’s breakout success in sports subscriptions

Local newspapers may be shuttering and people may be consuming most news on social media, but don’t tell Alex Mather that a subscription news publication can’t grow like a unicorn startup. His 2-year-old sports publisher The Athletic has gained over 100,000 paid subscribers (60 percent under age 34) and has a 90 percent retention rate.

Having already raised $30 million in its short life, the company announced a new $40 million Series C yesterday, led by Founders Fund and Bedrock Capital. It reportedly values The Athletic around $200 million.

I interviewed Alex Mather (The Athletic’s CEO) and Eric Stomberg (partner at Bedrock Capital) to understand what’s behind the breakout success, and why they think this publishing startup can scale to become a multi-billion dollar company.