National World buys second sports brand in two months

National World has acquired two sports news brands in the past two months as it places a greater emphasis on “valuable, specialist content”, especially around sports beyond football.

The latest addition is independent website Serious About Rugby League, which brings you daily news, views and exclusive content from the world of Rugby League.

The site launched in 2012 and has been profitable since 2017. The publisher says it has had more than 20 million views in each of the last four years.

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

The publisher said Athletics Weekly reaches 350,000 unique readers per month, with print and digital subscriber numbers continuing to grow.

National World chief executive John Rowe said the publisher was placing a greater emphasis on “specialist, unique content, especially around sports, which is our fastest-growing community.”

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Serious About Rugby League added: “Rugby League is an important part of the game because its fans live at the heart of it. Combining this site with our existing Rugby League coverage will accelerate our growth towards our stated goal of being the ‘destination for all things Rugby League’.”

The publisher also said the acquisition is expected to bring “a large and passionate audience in regions where National World has built brands that can support the site’s continued growth,” consistent with the company’s stated strategy to create a new business model that focuses on “localizing” news.

This week, National World launched a recruitment drive for a Head of Rugby League Content position, saying the “brand new role provides an exciting opportunity to lead the development plans for Rugby League on the site.”

In a statement following the acquisition of Athletics Weekly, COO Mark Hollinshead said that “we are continuing our strategy of focusing on unique, specialist content with the potential for higher-revenue advertising and media brand partnerships.”

The pair will expand National World’s sports portfolio, which, in addition to coverage across newspaper brands such as the Yorkshire Post and Portsmouth News, also includes recently launched websites 3 Added Minutes and Totally Snookered, and Scoop Dragon and News Chain, which the company acquired last year.

Serious About Rugby League and Athletics Weekly are the only acquisitions for National World in 2024. But in 2023 the total M&A expense was £14.4m, after buying:

In March this year, chief executive David Montgomery announced that the publisher was still bidding to buy Telegraph Media Group; the sale of that business was currently underway.

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