Strava Inc., maker of a fitness-tracking app that caters mostly to outdoor athletes, has just announced a new feature: “Athlete Posts,” a kind of blogging platform within its existing app that lets select athletes write extensive stories and publish photos. The move is clearly a part of Strava’s desire to turn the app, which, for a long time, was used predominantly by cyclists, into less of a niche fitness app and more of a social network by traditional social network standards.
Athlete Posts, to start, will only be available to 36 select athletes, including professional athletes, former pros, and a triathlete who has completed 50 Ironman races in 50 days across all 50 states. (Really, this is a thing.) The idea isn’t for them to just post a couple notes or photos about their epic adventures, something you can already do in the Strava app; but to write about training tips, suggested gear, or even more personal stories. One of the examples Strava gives is “Food Hacks for Traveling Athletes.” Eventually, the plan is to roll Athlete Posts out to all Strava users, sometime “later this summer.”
It’s a feature that borrows heavily from pretty much every existing social network (with the exception of Twitter, which has held fast to its 140-character limit) and the goal behind it is clear: get users more engaged in content within the app so that they’re more inclined to use the app, feed the data beasts, and maybe even upgrade to a premium account. The $7.99 per month subscription is one of the ways Strava makes money; the other is a service called Strava Metro that involves Strava selling user data to urban planners and departments of transportation that want to better assess traffic and commute patterns.
San Francisco-based Strava won’t say how many users the app has, or how many of those users pay for the app versus those who use the free version. But it has said it gains a million new members every 45 days and that each week approximately 8 million activities are uploaded to the app. And Strava, to its credit, is still a privately owned fitness company at a time when many of its competitors have been snatched up by big-brand apparel companies.
But Strava is still primarily an app for outdoor sport enthusiasts or people aspiring to be one; it boasts of having more than 600 professional athletes on its platform, Olympic champions have used it to track gold medal wins, and even non-professionals tend to get highly competitive in the app. So Strava either has to double-down on its current audience and extract more value from those users; or strive to become a household name among non-enthusiasts. Athlete Posts seems like it could potentially help with both.