I still really like David Murphy but I probably wouldn't pay for Philly.com if I had to (my family gets home delivery). Problem is, aside from the people with blogging and analytics background, nearly everyone who writes or wrote for the new outlets were first trained at the dying newspapers. Zolecki, Salisbury, Ryan Lawrence (who is gone from PhillyVoice, I don't think they are covering sports anymore?). Montemurro. Paul Hagen. Even Stark long ago of course. And now Matt Gelb, who Philly.com has yet to replace (they advertised the job, but if it hasn't been filled by now...) But his work is definitely better at the Athletic than it was there.Of course he's also writing twice as much, basically being both a columnist and a beat writer on some days.
And the Athletic has replaced SI and more than a little bit of ESPN.com and Fox Sports.com even more definitively. The paywall model is definitely a good thing (as Stark's column talks about) but all the $ The Athletic is using to hire all these writers and add sites is coming from VC funding, not sustainable revenue. It could be the future or it could be the next Bleacher Report, bought by an old media company and changed or scaled back. We shall see, but what won't happen for a while anyway.