While players might take some time off after retiring from professional sports, Derek Jeter did the opposite.
However, on October 1, 2015, Jeter set out on his most ambitious project – to create a new genre of athlete-led sports journalism. As a result, he founded The Players’ Tribune.
Its goal was to create “first-person stories from athletes, providing unique insight into the daily sports conversation.” In the five years since its creation, Jeter believes it has become a “true global athlete community.”
But times are changing, and the website has entered a new phase with what it calls a “partnership” with Minute Media.
Jeter said inspiration for founding the website originated from his days as a professional baseball player.
“I knew from my own experience in locker rooms and on road trips that athletes were really great storytellers, but that you didn’t always see that side of them when they were in front of a microphone or a camera,” Jeter told CNN via an email exchange.
“I hoped that we could give athletes a trusted place where they could be themselves and tell their stories in their own words. But I think what surprised me, and what surprised everybody on the staff was how deep athletes were willing to go.
“I don’t think we wanted to change the public’s perception of athletes, we just wanted to bring fans a little bit closer to them in an authentic way. We wanted you to feel like you’re a fly on the wall.”
’I wouldn’t change anything’
Since its founding, athletes that have contributed to the website have spoken on a variety of topics. From “depression, anxiety, racism, addiction, prison, bankruptcy, you name it,” added Jeter.
In 2015, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant announced his retirement on the site in a poem called “Dear Basketball.” When Kevin Durant signed with the Golden State Warriors in 2016, he announced the move on The Players’ Tribune.
Some of The Players’ Tribune’s most successful stories were viewed by a large number of viewers.
Kevin Love described the panic attack he suffered in the middle of an NBA game – a story which was read by more than two million people, according to Jeter – and Kyle Korver wrote about racism in America – read by more than three million people.
However, the site has struggled for viewers recently. The site’s traffic ranked number 69,757 in the U.S. over the past 90 days, according to Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa. In comparison, The Athletic ranks number 4,768.
It has also struggled for funding. While funds were easy to raise in the first few years – they raised $40 million in 2017 – the going has become tougher recently. And the company has had to make staffing cuts as a result, according to reports.
Reaching a new audience is offered as the reason for the new partnership with Minute Media, but Jeter insists the whole idea behind The Players’ Tribune was never about “chasing clicks.”
“The main vision that we had was that we didn’t want to create content that people clicked on and read or watched for a few seconds and then completely forget about the next day,” the five-time World Series winner added in the email with CNN.
“We want to create content that you remember and that matters in the world. Athletes and brands trust us because they know that we’re creating quality content, not just clickbait.
“I wouldn’t change anything about our site’s trajectory. What’s pushing us forward into this next chapter is that there’s so much demand from athletes all over the world.”
Reaching a new level
Minute Media’s portfolio includes sport websites such as The Big Lead, 12up and 90min.
Whilst Jeter doesn’t anticipate “anything changing” for him on a day-to-day basis, he’s confident The Players’ Tribune can reach the “next level.”
“They’re investing in taking The Players’ Tribune to the next level because of our trust in the athlete community and because of our world-class storytelling,” the former New York Yankee said.
“The most important thing is that our incredible creative staff, which has the trust of athletes all over the world, will not only remain the same, but will get more support and investment to help them tell more stories from all over the world.
“The core mission of what we do will remain exactly the same, but we’ll be doing it in more countries around the world.”