Why He's Interesting: The editor of The Athletic Cleveland, which launched in 2017, also wrote the definitive account of the rebuild that led to Cleveland’s first championship in 52 years in The Blueprint: LeBron James, Cleveland’s Deliverance, and the Making of the Modern NBA, which was released in October.
During a January 2017 Cavaliers road trip, beat reporter Jason Lloyd and ESPN’s Brian Windhorst drove together from Sacramento to San Francisco. Holding back the juicy bits, the writers swapped notes for their upcoming books — Windhorst’s Return of the King and Lloyd’s The Blueprint: LeBron James, Cleveland’s Deliverance, and the Making of the Modern NBA.
Upon arrival, Lloyd mentioned that two businessmen, Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann, wanted to meet him in San Francisco. The pair, who previously built a successful workout app called Strava, had a new subscription-based, multicity sports news site called The Athletic. They wanted Lloyd as editor-in-chief of the Cleveland branch.
Lloyd planned to turn them down.
“You waited until now to mention this?” said Windhorst, baffled. “Take the meeting! What do you have to lose?”
“I wouldn’t have met with them if it wasn’t for Brian,” says Lloyd, who promised the businessmen 15 minutes. “After two hours, I left Starbucks knowing I was probably going to make the jump.”
But since launching in March, has been accused of further wounding local newspapers by poaching notable beat writers such as Cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel and Ari Wasserman. An October New York Times article that quoted Mather saying The Athletic would “suck [local papers] dry of their best talent” didn’t help.
“We will always pursue the best talent,” Lloyd says. “We have the revenue streams. We can pay more, but I don’t, in any way, want to kill newspapers because they are too critical in fighting corruption.”
Lloyd, an Avon Lake native, is a product of newspapers. His earliest gigs at The Morning Journal in Lorain, covering high school sports and then Ohio State University, pulled him from a factory job at 19 years old. But newspapers have struggled to profit from the internet. The advertising revenue generated from tens of thousands of clicks — the typical newspaper model — equals earnings from just a few Athletic subscribers, Lloyd says.
He doesn’t want to kill newspapers — he wants to show them the way.
“I hope newspapers see our success and follow suit and find a way to monetize the internet,” Lloyd says.Interesting Fact: May 11, 2010: His first day on the Cavs beat at the Akron Beacon Journal was also James’ final home game before leaving for Miami.