The Athletic, a digital sports media company, is embracing traditional media in its new alliance with Tribune Media’s radio outlet WGN Chicago (720). The two companies have formed a content partnership that begins with the radio station’s Hoge & Jahns podcast. The Chicago Bears-focused show, which is hosted by WGN personality Adam Hoge and The Athletic’s Adam Jahns, will now release an additional weekly episode as bonus content only available to subscribers of The Athletic.
The partnership coincides with Hoge’s promotion to Manager of Digital Sports Content for WGN Radio. In the new role, he’ll oversee online strategies and content created by the station. Hoge will continue to be WGN Radio’s “Bears Insider,” traveling with the team throughout the season.
“The success of Hoge & Jahns is a great example of the innovation Adam will bring to his new role. His passion for sports and expertise in digital storytelling will take us to a whole new level,” said Tabitha Green, Director of Marketing & Digital Innovation, in the announcement.
The WGN partnership come as The Athletic takes steps to poke some holes in its subscription model. The company last month began putting some of its podcasts in front of its paywall in order to entice listeners to convert to paid users. The Athletic also announced the addition of more than 40 local and national-focused podcasts designed to expand its coverage of the NFL, college football, and fantasy football. Similar to its deal with WGN, The Athletic will offer one episode a week to non-subscribers with a second “bonus” episode available only to subscribers. The move is designed to get listeners to sample some of the podcasts in its portfolio and then covert them into paid users. A subscription to The Athletic starts at $5 per month—although it is currently running a 40% promotion that comes to about $3 per month. Axios reported the company will also make its first foray into the ad model by including commercials in a “small portion” of its free podcasts—although more may begin integrating commercials as the experiment moves forward.
The Athletic announced on Facebook last month that it has more than 600,000 subscribers and its payroll has grown to more than 400 staffers covering sports in the U.S. and Canada. It launched a podcast unit last April with nearly two dozen shows and an in-house podcast studio based at its San Francisco headquarters. The podcasting push is well-financed. The Athletic raised $40 million last October in a third round of fundraising that valued the company at $200 million. It is reportedly using some of that money to hire a team of 12 people to work on its new podcasting team.