The print version of Sports Illustrated is going to come out even less frequently in 2020. In 2018, the magazine dropped from 38 print issues (it had been at 51 in 2015) to 24, and now, Yahoo’s Daniel Roberts (who also broke the news of the 2018 reduction in July 2017) has reported that they’re going to a monthly schedule in 2020, plus five special issues (including the Swimsuit Issue). Here’s more from Roberts’ piece:
The magazine reduced to twice per month in January 2018. Now, just two years later, it will cut again to one issue per month in 2020—plus four special issues and the Swimsuit Issue, for a total of 17 issues in the calendar year.
Sports Illustrated staffers learned of the coming change at a meeting in October.
Most notably, sources close to the magazine say, the “close time” for each issue will be 3-4 weeks, meaning that everything in every issue must be “closed” (all text and photos edited, complete, sent to the printer) more than three weeks before the magazine comes out.
…Although the magazine will publish less frequently, the issues will be printed on heavier paper stock and priced higher on newsstands, sources say.
That’s interesting on several fronts. First off, this comes after SI was bought by Authentic Brands Group in May, and after they subcontracted TheMaven to run SI’s media operations in June. That led to SI layoffs in October, and to larger questions about TheMaven and its financial stability. And cutting the print magazine down even further is notable, especially when you consider the long lead times they’re trying to implement here; that will mean that SI’s print product isn’t current at all. Maybe focusing on more evergreen stories for the print product will help with its shelf life, but there isn’t a whole lot in sports that’s still relevant over three weeks after it happens. And “heavier paper stock” really doesn’t seem like it’s adding much value.
Obviously, Sports Illustrated has faced some timeliness challenges in the past in general, as everyone already knows what happened in particular games. But they’ve generally done an impressive job of adding extra insights to particular events despite a bit of a lag, and of writing notable features that are still worth reading a week or two later. That’s going to get even more difficult on a monthly schedule, though, and pricing the magazine even higher on newsstands may lead to less people picking it up there. This is certainly a significant change for SI, and we’ll see how it works out for them.