SI.com Revamps With Added Video, Personalization And Gossip
"Digital is the future, so we've got to make sure we're on top of things online," said Paul Fichtenbaum, SI.com's managing editor.
The site's main ad unit has been moved above the digital fold, and is now accompanied by a flash-based photo unit, which allows readers to tab through the day's top stories from the sports world. A personalization widget has also been added so users--whether hockey fanatics or golf devotees--can gain access to relevant news and stories with a single click.
In addition, beneath the featured video box--which has also been moved to the top of the page--users will now find a truth and rumors unit, filled with the "juiciest" news nuggets aggregated from around the Web, according to Fichtenbaum.
There are also new opportunities for advertisers in the works, like home page roadblocks and additional streaming video inventory. SI.com's last top-to-bottom makeover occurred in January 2005.
According to Sports Illustrated, SI.com contributed between 15% and 20% of the franchise's total revenue in 2006--a percentage that is expected to grow this year, Fichtenbaum said.
Sports Illustrated's Web push comes amid major layoffs aimed at cost-savings. Time Inc. just fired 289 mostly editorial posts, and four staffers have already left Sports Illustrated, while an additional 23 are expected to exit shortly. Said Time Inc. chairman and CEO Ann Moore in a staff memo released two weeks ago: "While we continue to invest in our core magazines, we are also focused on transforming our workforce and broadening our digital capabilities in order to become a truly multiplatform publisher."
The new site is not the first effort by Sports Illustrated to boost its digital worth. Late last year, it forged a deal with a social network for high school athletes, Takkle.com. Last summer, Sports Illustrated launched mySI, a downloadable application that includes a sports news ticker, stats, standings and other features that fans can use to track their favorite teams. And in early 2006, the magazine made a splash when it created a special Web site for its annual swimsuit issue and made videos featuring models available via iTunes and mobile phone.
Still, SI.com lags behind top sports sites like ESPN.com, Yahoo Sports, AOL Sports, and CBS SportsLine. Last September, SI.com drew 5.8 million users, while ESPN.com and Yahoo Sports pulled in audiences of 20 million and 17 million, respectively, according to comScore.
Fichtenbaum, while conceding that ESPN.com is more popular than SI.com, contested comScore's finding. "I don't know what ESPN's internal numbers are, but our traffic is at least three times those comScore numbers," he said. "Given that we're not a major Web portal or attached to TV, I think we're doing pretty good."