The UK has a new intriguing sports website – The Athletic UK
– launched here by US-based sports subscription publisher, The Athletic
, as its first overseas hub. The direct-to-consumer media company has hired a team of 57 journalists, mainly sports reporters, from UK regional newspapers, and will focus initially on football – especially English Premier League clubs. In Scotland (you guessed!) it will concentrate on Celtic and Rangers with two staff reporters – Kieran Devlin and Jordan Campbell. It plans to expand to cover more sports in the UK come time, which will be similar to its hyper-local model in the US and Canada, where it covers 50 different regions and has nearly 400 full-time writers who each have equity in the business.
'This is not an extension of the US: this is about how to empower our writers for a UK audience,' declares Akhil Nambiar, chief of staff at The Athletic.
Backed by more than £78m in funding, the media company has been proving an attractive bet for investors – typicallly attracting higher value than ad-funded media businesses.
According to website Digiday UK
: 'The Athletic
is premised on going beyond the typical sports reporting found in newspapers. However, brand awareness is low in the UK, and the media landscape is already cluttered, particularly in sport. Yet there could still be space for a new entrant wih the combination of a passionate fan base, differentiated content and a non-ad-funded business model, according to analysts'.
Douglas McCabe, CEO at Enders Analysis, says: 'Their service is differentiated from match report-centered newspaper coverage with a focus on investigations and analysis – such as the economics of teams, drug use and other sports news stories'.
In the US, The Athletic
has hired well-known sports journalists who have taken their audiences with them. It has used the same hiring model in the UK – hoping to achieve a similar result as in the US. According to Nambiar, there is already a small paying UK cohort plus a US appetite for more local football content, making the UK a natural next step. The website is believed to have 'well over' 100,000 subscribers. The US rates are $9.99 (£7.86) per month or $50 (£39.35) per year, and rates are similar in the UK. Subscribers will have access to all content created in the US and vice versa – currently around 1,200 stories a week. And in the US, The Athletic
has recently explanded into podcasts and video.
Lynne McNeil, the editor of Church of Scotland monthly magazine, Life and Work
, has come up with a very interesting focus on music and dementia in her editorial in the August issue. She writes:
'Every major occasion from cradle to grave takes place to a backdrop of music. Experience means that our reaction to some pieces of music changes as time goes by. What was meaningless to a child can provoke a range of reactions from an adult... Playlist for Life, the charity founded by the broadcaster and journalist Sally Magnusson, has demonstrated the powerful link between music and memory, thanks to its amazing work in developing personal playlists on donated iPods for those living with dementia.
'The musical memories evoked by the playlists have demonstrated a profound improvement in the daily lives of those dealing with dementia and the charity has called for everyone to develop their own personal playlists for the future... A recent BBC documentary, Our Dementia Choir
, provided further evidence of the importance of music, when a choir of a group of people living with dementia-linked conditions was formed and improvements in their daily lives were experienced and measured.'
Lynne stresses that impairment of this important sense is not always a barrier to enjoyment – citing Dame Evelyn Glennie as just one example of someone who has succeeded beyond the odds, using other senses to compensate for hearing impairment. And she gives a personal insight: 'I know from my husband (who has been deaf since childhood) that certain sounds resonate more with him than others and vibrations can be felt or sensed'.
There has been much furious fur flying around the usually sedate environment of BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs
programme, with its listeners split into factions over the abilities of new presenter Lauren Laverne. According to the Guardian's
arts and media correspondent, Vanessa Thorpe, radio critics, including the Sunday Times's
Gillian Reynolds and the Telegraph's
Charlotte Runcie had 'already expressed doubts about the future of the music-based interview format with Laverne at the helm'.
Sunderland-born Laverne, a former columnist on the Guardian
, has taken over from Kirsty Young who stepped down from the role after 12 years because of her struggle with the chronic health condition fibromyalgia. Laverne, who is also a BBC Radio 6 music host, is understood to be earning more than £300,000 a year from the Beeb. She is currently being derided from several directions – especially Spectator
magazine columnist Melanie McDonagh, who claims Laverne has no enthusiasm for classical music, declaring: 'There's no getting away from it. Lauren is lightweight and uncerebral. Her capacity to come up with the forgettable phrase is quite something'.
However, McDonagh, who says Laverne's appointment was a 'vain effort to attract younger listeners', has prompted much social media support for the Sunderland lass with a regional accent. Former Desert Island Disc
guest, composer Nitin Sawhney, weighed in by telling Laverne: 'A great interviewer has compassion, empathy, interest in their subject, sharp wit, and an ability to extract the heart and soul of a personal journey. All traits of yours'.
Laverne posted a heartfelt message of thanks on Twitter last Friday night, proclaiming: 'Today has been an entirely unexpected inventory of who is in my corner. I have to say I couldn't be happier. In fact it's been the best day in ages. Isn't it funny how it goes that way sometimes? Thanks very much to everyone who has been so kind'.
McDonagh has also criticised another female BBC Radio 4 presenter with a regional accent. She described Kathy Clugston's new role chairing Gardeners' Question Time
as 'the worst appointment Radio 4 has made in its apparent effort to alienate its listeners'. Perhaps Melanie should take stock of her tirades over a large latte before building up the energy to tear into BBC Radio Scotland's Gaelic presenters about regional accents and all that jazz. Slainte!