SBD/Issue 145/Sports Media

Sports Illustrated Seeks To Maintain Momentum From A-Rod Scoop

Editor Says SI Has To Be
More Than A Magazine
Sports Illustrated recently has been "overshadowed by ... ESPN in terms of what media mavens calls 'the buzz,'" and the magazine's "conundrum reflects the troubles of magazines, especially weeklies," according to Jon Friedman of MARKETWATCH. While SI "publishes a terrific issue every week," ESPN "can boast not only a popular magazine of its own, but also an iconic television and radio network." SI Group Editor Terry McDonell: "SI does not compete with magazines. We compete with networks. We have to be much more than a magazine. Our challenge is to find ways to compete vigorously with people who would seem to have more resources." McDonell said that Time Inc. editors "generally shunned the Web" when he joined SI in '02, because they "thought it was beneath them to write for the medium." But Friedman noted McDonell was "among the first editors at the company to recognize the Internet's value." When on February 7 first reported that Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in '03, the story "came on the heels of another breakthrough for the magazine," an excerpt from "The Yankee Years," written by Dodgers manager Joe Torre and SI's Tom Verducci. McDonell "shrugs off the ESPN rivalry by noting that its 'SportsCenter' is merely 'based on highlights.'" Also, while McDonell "respects ESPN's popularity, he also all but dismisses his foe by characterizing it as a company that gets 'excited about the Home Run Derby.'" McDonell: "How come no one else is breaking any stories?" Friedman noted ESPN "would respectfully disagree and point to its exclusives," but the Rodriguez and Torre instances "showed that SI still had plenty of journalistic vitality" (, 4/15).

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