Editor ﾕ Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated Group
Up against major networks rather than print brands, Terry McDonnell revamped Sports Illustrated’s digital offerings, making sites like SI.com and MySI the go-to sources for everything sports.
Sports Illustrated is a clearly successful print brand, generating more than $617 million in print revenues last year. That number is high, but also shows a one percent loss over the year prior. In 2006, the brand made a huge push for digital, spearheaded by editor Terry McDonell. “Anything we’ve lost in the way of traditional media revenues we have made up for several times over with what we’ve done on the digital side of this business,” McDonell says. “We have days where we do 50 or 60 million page views.”
McDonell’s digital shift centered on translating strong editorial coverage from the print magazine onto the Web. He moved the Web site operation from Atlanta to New York in 2003 in order to integrate it with the print platform, and reorganized it so that 95 percent of the print magazine’s writers also write for the Web. “We made it standard procedure here that if you wrote for the magazine, you wrote for the Web site too,” he says.
Of the hundreds of images taken at sporting events, only a handful make it into the magazine each week. SI.com rescues those unused photographs for online extensions and galleries, which according to McDonell, have become a very popular sections of the site.
The site features breaking news as well as investigative series, book excerpts, Q&As and long-form journalism, and has seen a 33 percent increase in unique users and an 107 percent increase in page views since the 2003 shift. SI.com ad revenues are up 200 percent since 2004.
Other features include Webcasts and video. In September, SI launched MySI, an online program that allows sports fans to receive up-to-the-minute news and information on all of their favorite teams. MySI feeds stories from all across the Web, including direct SI competitors, to the reader.
MySI currently has 100,000 subscribers and includes features like injury trackers, downloadable screen savers and a fantasy component. “We have to be really aggressive about building out our digital businesses,” says McDonell. “We keep improving the technology and the thinking behind what we’re delivering.”
SI Digital’s net revenues jumped 180 percent in 2006 and 587 percent over the past three years.