After 70 years, Sports Illustrated has opened a new chapter in it’s iconic history. May 2019 saw Authentic Brands Group (ABG) purchase Sports Illustrated and introduce Ross Levinsohn as CEO. With Levinsohn at the helm and top-tier technology platform Maven managing the magazine’s editorial operations, Sports Illustrated has experienced a critical revitalization.
Levinsohn has achieved a great deal in two years, thanks to his expertise, insight and vision for the company. By incorporating different strategies to optimize content and attract readers, Sports Illustrated continues to thrive as a nationally acclaimed publication.
The Ideal Leader for Volatile Times
Levinsohn has enjoyed an impressive career, gaining more than 30 years of experience in media, finance and technology. A well-known media executive, he has served as interim CEO of Yahoo! and President of Fox Interactive Media, where his influence increased the profitability of both companies. His career experience also includes roles at HBO, Tribune, Guggenheim Digital Media, search engine Alta Vista and CBS Sportsline.
The versatility and insight Levinsohn brings to each new role makes him the perfect choice for CEO of Sports Illustrated and Maven. In the past, he has worked with media companies to help staff align content and boost viewership. Levinsohn understands how companies can strategically adjust operations to meet an audience’s expectations, precisely what Sports Illustrated needs as it moves into the future.
Building on a Legacy
Henry Luce launched Sports Illustrated in 1954. In 1960, Andre Laguerre assumed the position of managing editor and revolutionized the magazine by featuring coverage on important sporting events. The enthusiasm of sports fans helped solidify the magazine as a cutting-edge publication.
For decades, Sports Illustrated has produced top-tier content focusing on the athletic world. Their journalists cover live sporting events and write articles that delve deeper into games, matches and athletes than simply the final outcomes. In addition, the magazine’s color photography, introduced in the 1960s, propelled the magazine to reach a broad audience of fascinated viewers. Sports Illustrated has proven itself by twice winning the National Magazine Award for General Excellence.
Adapting to Consumers
With internet access, the relationship between publishers and consumers has shifted. Publications must decide whether to continue print options or move entirely onto digital platforms. Trustworthiness of content has also come into question, meaning content producers must take extra care in maintaining consumer confidence.
Decades of experience in technology, finance and media provide Levinsohn a clear advantage in the media industry, allowing him to simultaneously provide a fresh perspective and seasoned wisdom. Under his leadership, Sports Illustrated has become more profitable by moving away from revenue-based advertising toward premium subscriptions. Online readership has also grown, with SI.com drawing more than 38 million online viewers in January 2021, marking the largest monthly online audience recorded to date for the website.
Pursuing a New Vision For Sports Illustrated
A forward thinker fueled with creativity, Levinsohn has a comprehensive vision for Sports Illustrated’s future achievements. His passion for history and memorabilia fit well into Sports Illustrated’s legacy, and his strong belief in traditional media inspires confidence in staff and readers. In order to build a valuable, sustainable publication, Levinsohn looks to these strategies.
Adopting the Paywall Model
On February 2, 2021, Sports Illustrated implemented a paywall on its primary website hoping that subscription revenue would allow SI to improve consumer experience. Readers receive five free articles per month, but are encouraged to subscribe for unlimited access afterward.
The Beauty of a Full Subscription
Sports Illustrated’s subscribers may view stories, videos, podcasts and photos from any period in the publication’s history and dive into the magazine’s digital archive, The Sports Illustrated Vault. The archive contains content that dates back to the magazine’s first issue from August 16, 1954. Early access to stories, a customized newsletter and audio versions of select stories round out the $7.99-per-month subscription, which includes both digital and print.
Crucial Advice for All Publications
Partnerships, paywall and premium content all fall under Levinsohn’s four-part outline for sustaining Sports Illustrated’s success. These four principles offer important advice for any publication seeking to build an enduring, yet flexible brand.
Weigh Cost vs. Quality
Levinsohn believes that publications of different calibers must approach business with different priorities. High-end publishers should focus on creating a high-quality, long-lasting product for their readers. Low-cost publishers, on the other hand, benefit more when they prioritize cutting print costs.
Target Niche Audiences
Oddly enough, publications are more likely to succeed when they target niche audiences rather than trying to appeal to a large swathe of people. Levinsohn hopes to entice Sports Illustrated readers to continue subscribing through lower rates for loyal readers, bundling subscriptions with other publishers and offering digital access with print.
Produce Content of Quality
By investing in the editorial side of the publication, Sports Illustrated will attract more readers and earn more revenue. Hiring talented journalists and dedicated staff members bolsters the magazine’s reputation, reassuring readers that the content comes from vetted, reliable sources.
A reputable staff not only produces excellent articles, photography and coverage, it publishes in a consistent manner, so readers have reliable access to high-quality content.
Develop Premium Membership Tiers
With “freemium” marketing models, the key lies in creating value for each membership level. Offering readers premium memberships provides consistent revenue to publications. Increased earnings then allow publications to hire exceptional talent, from writers to photographers to managers, which subsequently boosts the publication’s overall quality. It all begins, though, by devoting energy to the content produced.
A Leader For the Age
Levinsohn has proven time and time again throughout his career that he possesses the knowledge, innovation and determination to lead a media organization to success. As CEO of Sports Illustrated and Maven, the publication will continue to adapt and grow into the modern world. With ABG as the owner and Levinsohn guiding them, it’s impossible to lose.