Athletic co-founder Alex Mather praised Axios last summer


Athletic co-founders Adam Hansmann and Alex Mather

Source: The Athletic

Digital sports publication The Athletic and short-form news service Axios are considering merging as part of a larger plan to consolidate digital media companies, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the news on Friday. The talks are “extremely early,” one of the people said.

Athletic co-founders Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann spoke to CNBC last year after surpassing the 1 million subscriber mark. At the time, Mather praised Axios as a company he watched for innovations it could bring to The Athletic.

“We look at a company like Axios, what are they doing really well?” Mather said in the interview.

“How can we take what they’re doing and apply it to sports? If you’re a casual fan of politics, they simplify the experience. They give me the things I need and very little that I don’t. There’s an incredible art to that. Don’t just say ‘Oh, put it in bullets!’ It’s working your way to get to what someone needs to know rather than what depth is. We see our business that way too. You may be a die-hard fan and read all the articles or be a casual fan. How do we do the casual thing? Happy fan? How do we sum up the day in the NBA every day so that if you’re a casual fan, you can follow along? “

The Wall Street Journal noted that the two companies would continue to operate separately as a stipulation of early merger talks. Still, Mather’s comments provide a window into the kinds of stylistic and editorial choices that can come to The Athletic if Axios reporters and editors are asked for help.

A spokeswoman for The Athletic declined to comment on the merger talks, adding: “Axios has built an incredible business and we have enjoyed many conversations over the years.”

Similarly, Axios CEO Jim VandeHei noted that companies “have literally been talking for years about our shared passion for the premium content business.” Axios also declined to comment on the merger discussions.

Both Axios and The Athletic have venture capital sponsors that could monetize investments in digital media companies if they go public through a special purpose investment vehicle. Group Nine has publicly stated its desire to incorporate digital media companies through a SPAC. Buzzfeed has had discussions with 890 Fifth Avenue, a SPAC focused on media and telecommunications, according to Bloomberg. Other companies, including Bustle, Vox and Vice, have also discussed merging and going public through a SPAC, CNBC reported earlier this year.

OBSERVE: Liberty Media forms SPAC with plans to list on Nasdaq.

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