Sports Illustrated has been discussing setting up a paywall for “premium content” for some time, and it appears the longtime publication is about to follow through.
Per a report from Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports, SI.com will set up a metered paywall around much of its content, beginning Feb. 2. The list of pay-per-read articles will include exclusive news, behind-the-scenes interviews and even special photos.
SI was once the most respected name in sports journalism, but has since fallen on hard times under the often chaotic ownership of Maven, which began in October 2019. Following the Maven takeover, numerous longtime staff members, including some highly regarded writers and editors, were laid off. The company has restaffed SI.com on several occasions in just over a year of ownership.
“Several team-specific channel sites run by contract publishers provide the bulk of the site’s current content, and it’s difficult to imagine readers will want to pay for that,” opined Ian Casselberry of Awful Announcing. “The same goes for breaking news.”
Per McCarthy, SI still has yet to determine a subscription price, or how many articles readers will get to view at no charge. “But one source said SI hopes to create a model where readers could pay up to $5.99 a month for premium content,” McCarthy reported.
Under Maven’s ownership, contract writers have complained of late payments and rickety guidelines that often change. SI moved contractors off their main site after a failed attempt to hire a reporter for every team in the NFL, MLB and NBA, as well as most college programs in 2019.
Maven/SI eliminated guaranteed payments for publishers of team sites just one year after instituting the plan.
The Athletic, an ad-free sports website featuring some of the top names in sports journalism, charges a monthly subscription fee. ESPN also recently adopted a subscription model for much of its content.
Unbeknownst to many, the once-proud Sports Illustrated still publishes a magazine — charging $20 for a one-year subscription of 16 issues or $30 for two years and 32 issues.