Discover more from Business Side
The Athletic pulls back on local coverage
Plus, how one Swedish newspaper is using AI to generate article summaries
For The Times, the $70 million deal, along with its sale of 16 regional newspapers the year prior, was a clear acknowledgment that local news was no longer strategically important to the company’s future. Going forward, The Times would refocus on digital growth for its core global brand.
You know the story since. In 2014, the company created its now famous Innovation report, which provided a roadmap to accelerate The Times’ digital transformation. Today, The Times is a categorical success with more than 9 million digital subscribers across a portfolio that includes news, sports, games, and cooking. Since the Innovation report’s release, the company’s stock price has roughly tripled.
All this is context for some news from earlier this week: The Athletic, the sports publication acquired by The Times last year, laid off 20 journalists amid a “a significant reorganization” of the newsroom. Going forward, The Athletic will still employ a large staff of local beat reporters, but it’s reallocating resources toward broader, league-wide coverage.
The move touched a nerve, in part because The Times’ success over the past decade has coincided with the continued decline of many local newspapers. There are those who wish The Times would address this widening gap more directly, but this latest retrenchment was further evidence that local is not a core part of their plan.
To this end, the move shouldn’t come as a surprise. It more closely aligns The Athletic’s approach with The Times’ overall strategy to be “the essential digital subscription for every curious, English-speaking person seeking to understand and engage with the world.” This broad, global mandate doesn’t square with coverage of sports teams with only local appeal.
For certain local publications, The Times’ shift will open opportunities to double down on sports. One beneficiary may be DNVR, the Denver sports publisher I wrote about last week that has built a strong brand around Denver’s teams. In other markets that The Athletic is deprioritizing, newspapers will also have an opportunity to re-establish themselves as a hub for local sports.
It’s a reminder that The Times, for all its success, can’t – and shouldn’t – do it all. Opportunity abounds for publishers to pursue more focused markets and differentiate through deeper coverage.
Here’s today’s case study:
Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet is using AI to create article summaries. Here’s how it works:
Aftonbladet’s dev team built a custom tool that uses OpenAI’s API and integrates with their CMS.
After writing a story, an Aftonbladet journalist can check a box in the CMS to add an AI-generated summary to the top of the piece; an editor then reviews the summary before it’s published.
Below each summary, the following note is included for readers: “The summary is made with the support of AI tools from OpenAI and quality assured by Aftonbladet. Read our AI policy here.”
And here’s the latest news in digital media:
Media has experienced a record number of layoffs this year. More than 17,000 job cuts have been announced so far across the industry, representing the highest year-to-date total on record according to a new report. Within the news category (broadcast, digital & print), nearly 2,000 cuts have been announced.
Insider’s chief media correspondent left to start a Substack. After three years at the publication, Claire Atkinson is launching the independent newsletter, The Media Mix. The publication will cover “power players in global media, tech and marketing” with an “international dimension.”
More on publishers:
Penske Media is launching a women’s health outlet called Flow.
LA-based tech site dot.LA laid off all seven of its editorial staff.
WaPo profiled their new interim CEO.
More on platforms & AI:
Google is lobbying for AI to be regulated by multiple government agencies, rather than create a dedicated AI agency.
Amazon is testing generative AI to summarize customers’ product reviews.
Netflix is in talks to live stream its first sporting event this fall.
Thanks for being a part of Business Side’s private beta. Have a great day!