TheMaven Inc., the media company that has the rights to publish the storied magazine, this week reported in a public filing that a new editorial focus and technical upgrades helped to lift website traffic.
Total unique visitors rose 7.4% to 29 million in December from a year earlier, as the magazine added more coverage about specific teams. That shift helped to generate 5.6 million unique visitors to SI.com.
The site still has a lot of work to do to catch up with other top sports sites, such as ESPN and CBS Sports. The improved traffic may not help to lift the morale of editorial employees, who this week voted to unionize.
TheMaven cut costs by $27 million from a year earlier, when Meredith Corp. owned Sports Illustrated. Meredith handled the job cuts in October as the magazine switched ownership.
Those cuts were unquestionably painful for employees, but may have been the radical surgery needed to save the patient. Sports Illustrated is an esteemed brand with a long history, but sports coverage has changed dramatically in the digital age.
Sports news can be found everywhere online, including social-media platforms like Twitter that distribute breaking news at light speed.
Social media have changed the dynamic of sports coverage in other ways. It used to be that newspapers, magazines and broadcasters acted as gatekeepers between fans and their favorite teams and players. Nowadays, fans follow their favorite athletes on social media to gain a steady stream of updates, including posts that reveal more about their personal lives away from the field and during the off-season.