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National World buys second sports brand in two months amid specialist drive

Serious About Rugby League and Athletics Weekly are latest National World acquisitions.

By Amy Seal

National World has bought two sports news brands in the past two months as it puts more focus on “high value, specialist content” especially in sports beyond football.

The latest acquisition is the independent Serious About Rugby League website, which provides daily Rugby League news, opinions, and exclusives.

The site launched in 2012 and said it has been profitable since 2017. The publisher claimed to have surpassed 20 million page views in each of the past four years.

In June National World bought Athletics Weekly, a website and monthly print magazine, from 21six Investments Limited – just over a month ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The publisher said Athletics Weekly reaches 350,000 monthly unique visitors and that it is growing its print and digital subscribers.

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National World executive director John Rowe said the publisher is putting more “focus on specialist unique content particularly in sport, which is our fastest growing community”.

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Of Serious About Rugby League, he added: “Rugby League is an important component as its fans are in our heartland. Marrying this website with our existing Rugby League coverage will accelerate our growth towards our stated goal to be the ‘go to place for everything Rugby League’.”

The publisher also said the acquisition is set to bring “a large and passionate following in geographies where National World has established brands able to support the continued growth of the site”. This follows the company’s stated strategy to create a new business model with a focus on “localising” news. 

National World has this week begun advertising for a head of Rugby League content, saying the “brand new role represents an exciting opportunity to lead the growth plans for Rugby League based around the site”.

Speaking after the acquisition of Athletics Weekly, chief operating officer Mark Hollinshead said it “continues our strategy to focus on unique specialist content with higher-yielding advertising and multimedia brand partnership potential”.

The pair add to National World’s sports portfolio, which as well as coverage within its newspaper brands like the Yorkshire Post and Portsmouth News includes the more recently-launched websites 3 Added Minutes and Totally Snookered and Scoop Dragon and News Chain, both of which it acquired last year.

Serious About Rugby League and Athletics Weekly are National World’s only acquisitions of 2024 so far. But in 2023 its total M&A cost was £14.4m, having bought:

In March this year chairman David Montgomery announced the publisher was still in the running to buy the Telegraph Media Group, for which the sale process is currently ongoing.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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  • Other C-Suite
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