SBJ/November 10 - 16, 2003/E Sports

SI Exclusive lures ‘thousands’ of subscribers

Sports Illustrated has reaped immediate rewards from a recent move to make an enhanced magazine section of si.com available only to subscribers, according to SI executives.

In the less than two months since its launch, "SI Exclusive" has lured "thousands" of new subscribers to the magazine, while "tens of thousands" of existing subscribers have registered to receive the exclusive content, said Jonathan Shar, SI's consumer marketing director.

Subscriber-only content on SI’s Web site is paying off.

"It's still early, but it's going pretty well," Shar said, noting that the focus is not on the raw number of new subscriptions but rather on the percentage of those people who will stick with the magazine for the long run. "My hypothesis is that number's going to be really strong, because we're driving people to subscribe through our use of relevant content. We're going to get some really committed folks."

"SI Exclusive" gives subscribers access to beat coverage from the magazine's Insider columns, Scorecard articles, columns from Rick Reilly and Steve Rushin and the cover before the magazine arrives on newsstands. The online section also includes a weekend preview section, the SI Adventure and Golf Plus sections, photo galleries from swimsuit issues and select archived articles.

The purpose of the launch was to add value for existing subscribers and to bring new subscribers by capitalizing on the traffic to si.com, which in September drew 5.8 million unique visitors, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

Those readers, a substantial portion of whom are not SI subscribers, have grown accustomed to a site that shares little overlap with the magazine, said si.com President Gordon McLeod. The distinction between the two is largely the result of SI's decision early on not to make magazine content available online for free, thus creating a "magazine ghetto," McLeod said.

"We didn't want to give it away," McLeod said. "It devalues the magazine, and it doesn't create a unique online experience."

But now that si.com has established itself as a separate property from the weekly publication, Shar and McLeod said, SI executives want to make SI and si.com more complementary properties by showing the site's visitors what they are missing by not subscribing to the magazine.

SI.com will soon have more to dangle in front of potential subscribers upon completion of a recently launched online survey to determine what "SI Exclusive" subscribers like most and what they would like to see, Shar said.

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E-Sports, Time Warner

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