The Athletic’s Race for Top Spot: The Botten Line


After a summer recess so comfortable it pushed the Commons close for worn slippers and pipe usage, The Botten Line makes its second appearance today after a debut launch that covered the rise of SME’s, Amazon Prime and the BBC licence fee debate.

Dan Botten, Head of Insight at December 19 will be covering all things on his media radar on the 19th of each month (see what we’ve done there?) – if you have any questions/comments or an area you might like covered, please feel free to get in touch.

The Athletic is setting a fast early pace but can it last the race?

Have we found a solution to make money in digital news?

If you haven’t yet heard of The Athletic, and I appreciate not everyone reading this is a sports fan, then this new(ish) UK venture is something that anyone in the industry just might find appropriate.

Founded three years ago by two veteran founders of the Strava fitness app, The Athletic has encountered plenty of doubt from industry experts but has grown both readership and writers as well as significant investment (we will look at some numbers in a bit).

You can understand the concerns. In the UK alone, up to 60 established journalists have signed on the dotted line on not insignificant salaries while £10 million has been spent on a UK ad awareness campaign (see above). These costs are covering ambitious subscriber targets as well. Readers are being asked to commit to £4.99 a month (or £2.99 a month throughout the initial trial period) to sign up and the early signs are promising – if success is replicated in the UK, The Athletic could be coming in with turnover well exceeding rivals such as Copa90 and LadBible.

The digital subscription model has also seen success at The Times and The Sunday Times (subscribers up 19% y-oy) and The Financial Times recently announced it had hit the 1 million paying readers in target. As well as those established giants, news brand The Tortoise is testing the market with a more reflective read and a £24 a month entry fee which includes a print product as well. This must be compared with current job cuts at Vice, Buzzfeed and Verizon but this is where specialist content comes into its own against general stories.

Of course, huge venture capital funding will help initial to cover initial costs but a product like this lives or dies on it’s quality of content and this is where The Athletic excels. Genuinely insightful writing across several sports, presented in an easy read to format has been its biggest success story so far – I for one look forward to seeing if The Athletic deliver on it’s early promise and rise the league table.

Bombarding the Brexit message – skilful maybe, but moral?

I was initially very cynical about the Government’s information campaign urging the public to “Get Ready for Brexit” which was launched by Michael Gove on Sunday September 1st.

Putting aside personal historic voting, the message seemed misplaced – the main thrust of the campaign assumes the general public know what they must do to get ready for such an eventuality and the fact it will happen. The next point being that, with such a divisive close issue that almost half of the message and placement would go wasted.

Finally, that £100m was being in spent across a two-month period which, with such intensity, would only accentuate the supply and demand issues in outdoor as well as for other advertisers in other media channels.

Although there is obvious scope for the creative message to change over the next two months, the actual basic and simple message of ‘Get Ready for Brexit’ might be the most effective one now for the electorate. Now that Boris Johnson has pro-rogued Government, this can fill a vacuum to a population that the opposition are unable to counter. For those inclined to leave Europe or wavering on the issue, a simple repeated mantra at high frequency is a clever tactical move until we see what happens next.

We literally need to watch that space.

A conspiracy of silence

I was sent an interesting blog piece this week from a friend in the industry called ‘A Conspiracy of Silence’ which you can read in full here.

It’s a powerful and passionate read which essentially lambasts the ad industry, and particularly media agencies, for inertia and speechlessness over a range of industry led malpractice from funding paedophile rings to incorrect traffic fraud reporting.

The main reasons for this being that agency insiders want to be kept quiet about being played for fools and that they and their companies directly benefit from fees or commissions on billions of pounds of wasted spend.

As an employee of a fiercely proud independent media agency, born out of bigger media agency culture and the global recession over a decade ago, a guiding principle is complete transparency and a different way of doing things for our clients and staff.

Maybe it’s time for a media agency award or recognition on a culture of honesty and transparency? Possibly hard to measure but steps are needed to counter such an impassioned if unbalanced narrative.

Thanks for getting this far. You can contact me on– the next Botten Line will be out on October 19th.

Written by december19