A Media Outlet Takes Care Of Its Fans

Media consultant Lee Abrams likes to talk about the glory days of radio when many of us grew up. The top stations didn’t just have listeners. They had fans. Media and PR came together ideally.

Fans would show up at live remotes just to meet their favorite DJs. Fans would put bumper stickers on their cars. Fans felt like they were customers and not just “all you people out there in Radioland.”

Today, few media outlets have real fans. Fewer act like they want them.

I had the opportunity this week to attend a subscriber appreciation party for The Athletic, the fast-growing subscription sports writing site that we wrote about when it entered the Detroit market last summer.

On an April Thursday night in bar in Downtown Detroit, dozens of fans of the site, who actually pay to read sports stories in lieu of getting them for free with advertising and autoplay video, showed up for a free beer, a t-shirt and the chance to meet The Athletic’s Detroit writing staff. And it wasn’t just old guys who miss the heyday of a thick Sports Illustrated arriving in the mailbox every week. It was a cross-section of ages, but all fans who want something more than what crosses their Twitter feed or hits the driveway on Sunday mornings.

Editor-In-Chief Craig Custance (pictured right) and his team went out of their way to way to try to not only say hello to all of the subscribers there, but also to thank them. In a panel discussion, all of the editors and writers spoke passionately about their work and their commitment to serving the people who pay their bills – the site’s fans.

The Athletic isn’t the only outlet to do events like this in the Detroit market. Multiple public radio stations host similar gatherings for the listeners who pay their bills. But for sports, this was highly unusual. For fans, the appreciation was mutual.