While the future of America’s biggest sports magazine remains an open question, its second-biggest will soon call it quits on print entirely.
ESPN The Magazine will shutter its monthly print edition after September’s annual Body Issue, its parent company announced Tuesday morning, ending a 21-year run.
“Consumer habits are evolving rapidly, and this requires ESPN to evolve as well,” read a brief statement from ESPN Tuesday afternoon, explaining that readers can expect much of the same content, just not in ink. “Our data shows the vast majority of readers already consume our print journalism on digital platforms, and this approach will maximize our reach and impact.”
The company left open the possibility of printing one-off issues in the future around special events, like the Body Issue, “in special, differentiated print formats.”
Despite being showered in accolades under editor-in-chief Alison Overholt—who took over in 2016—maintaining a steady circulation of 2.1 million since 2012 (according to the Alliance for Audited Media) and reducing print costs by moving from a biweekly to a monthly publishing schedule at the start of 2019, the magazine has been losing money “for the past several years,” according to Sports Business Journal, which first reported the news.
Reps for ESPN didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the future of the magazine’s current staffers, though many on the editorial side are already working across both print and digital.
“ESPN The Magazine was far more than just money-losing: it was smart, provocative, fun, and the people that worked there truly cared,” tweeted The Athletic‘s Jon Scher, who served as ESPN The Magazine‘s senior editor from 2000 to 2010. “In the NY days management made us feel like we were doing the most important work at ESPN. That costs money, so we spent some.”
This is a developing story.
I am heartbroken to hear about ESPN the Mag. It is home to some of the greatest writers I know, and I love each of them. I will be grateful forever for them letting me publish, at length, my favorite story of all time, which I will never do better than. https://t.co/vsYhRsa1uH
— Taffy Brodesser-Akner (@taffyakner) April 30, 2019
The genius that designed ESPN The Magazine at the start was a guy named Darrin Perry. He died in 2004. I think of him today.
He was, no bullshit, an absolute creative genius. https://t.co/eeJZdyAawz
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) April 30, 2019
RIP, ESPN The Magazine. Great people, great stories. It was a joy to produce writing there. I enjoyed every moment.
— Robert Sanchez (@MileHighRobert) April 30, 2019
ESPN The Magazine was far more than just money-losing: it was smart, provocative, fun, and the people that worked there truly cared. In the NY days management made us feel like we were doing the most important work at ESPN. That costs money, so we spent some. https://t.co/hiksDwpPBd
— Jon Scher (@JonScher) April 30, 2019