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New York Times agrees to buy the Athletic

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 6, 2022

The New York Times Co. agreed to buy the Athletic, acquiring a sports-news website with more than 1 million subscribers, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The deal is valued at around $550 million, said the person, who asked not to be identified because it hasn’t been announced. Neither the Times nor the Athletic responded to a request for comment.

Started six years ago, the Athletic established itself by poaching big-name sports writers from news outlets across the country, including Ken Rosenthal in baseball and Shams Charania in basketball.

The Athletic’s co-founder, Alex Mather, told the New York Times in 2017: “We will wait every local paper out and let them continuously bleed, until we are the last ones standing. We will suck them dry of their best talent at every moment.”

He later apologized.

The company raised about $50 million two years ago at a valuation of around $500 million.

In November, it had about 1.2 million subscribers who pay for access to articles about major professional sports teams in the U.S., as well as professional soccer teams abroad.

In June 2020, the Athletic cut 46 employees, or 8% of its staff.

The Athletic also held talks with the online news site Axios. Negotiations broke down over a range of issues, including price and who would lead the combined company, according to people familiar with the matter.

The deal with the Times was reported earlier Thursday by the Information.

French regulators target Google, Facebook

LONDON – French regulators on Thursday fined Google and Facebook a total of more than $226 million for not making it as easy for people to opt out of online tracking as it is for them to accept it.

The CNIL data privacy watchdog said its investigations found that while the U.S. online giants gave French users a single button to immediately accept cookies, there wasn’t an equally simple way for them to decline because “several clicks are required to refuse all cookies.”

Cookies are snippets of code used to target internet users for digital ads and other purposes.

European governments have stricter regulations than the U.S. that require websites to ask for permission before tracking a user’s activity.

That means people face pop-up menus when they visit new websites, but there’s been growing concern that many are configured to make it confusing or tedious if they don’t want to give consent.

Visitors to Facebook, Google’s French homepage and YouTube were being nudged to say yes, which meant they weren’t freely giving their consent, a violation of French data protection rules, the CNIL said.

The French watchdog slapped Google with a $170 million penalty and Facebook with a $68 million fine.

It also threatened daily fines of 100,000 euros if they don’t make it simpler for users in France to refuse cookies within three months.

Facebook, which has been renamed Meta, said it’s reviewing the decision and is committed to working with authorities.

“Our cookie consent controls provide people with greater control over their data, including a new settings menu on Facebook and Instagram where people can revisit and manage their decisions at any time, and we continue to develop and improve these controls,” the company said.

Google said: “People trust us to respect their right to privacy and keep them safe. We understand our responsibility to protect that trust and are committing to further changes and active work with the CNIL in light of this decision.”

Cookies have been a longstanding source of privacy concerns because they can be employed to track users across the internet.

From wire reports

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