Sports Illustrated Offers A VR Version Of Its Swimsuit Models

It’s cold, it’s February and the Sports Illustrated instant-outrage swimsuit edition is out today at newsstands in two versions. One of them gives readers an easily accessible virtual reality device to see some of the models doing their thing.

Attached is a pair of Google Cardboard virtual reality goggles, necessary to access 11 pieces of VR video. Three of them are videos of  a past swimsuit shoot, Variety reports. Lexus is the launch partner.

The issue sans cardboard is $7.99. The Cardboard-equipped edition costs $9.99.

I have a feeling this idea has legs, to deliberately pun. And quirky first-issue patina too.  Otherwise on that newsstand (where ever that newsstand still exists) is the first nudeless issue of Playboy, a marketing strategy the magazine adapted after’s numbers went way up when it began covering up, while the magazine was left with its luscious naked women to be ogled by lascivious old, commercially unviable men.

Historically, as everyone seems to acknowledge, naked or nearly naked women have a way of getting things done in the publishing world, even if they're just playing in the sand. Playboy launched Hefner and changed the magazine biz, “jijggly” women helped catapult ABC to first in the Nielsens, for the first time ever, in 1975, helped popularize pay per view. Eventually naked women created so much demand in mom and pop video rental stores that mom and pop and put up new drywall to create adult sections for those cassettes.  

Online, of course, video is the great big category no one much mentions, but was discovered first and with gusto on big old clunky Gateways way back. (One company that does pay attention is Porn Hub, which reported that in 2015, nearly 88 billion of its videos were viewed for a total of 4.4 billion hours.)

I don't mean to equate beautiful nearly naked women with porn, but I think you'll see that in the letters to the editor in the next issue of Sports Illustrated, dozens of irate parents of school-age readers will. It happens every year. Supermarkets will be busy removing copies. All that. 

So if  the swimsuit issue gives VR Cardboard a huge boost and a lot of publicity, there’s plenty of precedent. The fact that other Sports Illustrated VR offerings will be on sports topic shows the obvious big picture SI must envision. As a magazine that features spectacular photography, VR is a natural outgrowth.

But hot women sell magazines, and VR too, probably.  Fast Company reported  that last year’s edition in print and digital forms a daily digital swimsuit section, had more than 70 million adult viewers and more 18 to 34s than watched the 2015 Super Bowl.

Variety says the magazine is distributing a half million Google Cardboard glasses with newsstand copies; subscribers will have to pay $2.99 to get theirs. The VR content works with any Google Cardboard headset, so the one The New York Times included with its Sunday edition last October can be used to see the photo shoot, Even without any glasses,the VR content will be offered in a 360-degree video online.
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