Volume 92, Issue 89
Wednesday, March 17, 1999
SI finally joins the 20th century
Sports Illustrated is once again putting women in the spotlight, but this time it doesn't involve frolicking in the hot sand with painted-on swimsuits.
Publishing giant Time-Warner has taken the best from Cosmopolitan and Sports Illustrated to create their most recent newsstand product, SI Women. Although it's not exactly equal to its brother publication, it's at least a start.
The magazine will publish four 120 page "special issues" over the next year, the first of which hit newsstands last week. In 1997, SI attempted a similar distribution strategy but were forced to quit publication after only two issues.
This time around, editors have a more balanced and fool-proof strategy. The magazine's editorial content will include sport features, similar to mainstream SI, personal health and fitness issues and other educational articles teaching women the basics of sport. The magazine also includes a Cosmo-inspired horoscope section, which is good for a laugh.
The features will finally provide women with a chance to get fair coverage of their sports, at both the professional and college levels. Statistics show the 1980s and '90s marked a large increase in women's interest in sport, which is evident by higher levels of participation in competitive sport.
An excellent addition would be to find a regular back page columnist similar to SI's resident back-pager Rick Reilly, with a woman's perspective, possibly an ex-athlete turned journalist. Male athletes re-invent themselves into journalists all the time, so finding an athlete who can write shouldn't be too tough.
One of the funniest parts of the first issue is the last page which is filled with the nine semi-clad pro-bowlers in nothing but swim trunks. Thanks to SI's annual double issue published for the simple intent of ogling, it's tough to call a single page in the women's issue sexist.
Women deserve equal press coverage and Sports Illustrated's move is long overdue. One weakness with the publication is the further divide created between the genders. Critics are sure to ask why women deserve their own publication since over the 54 years of publishing SI has never been known as "SI Men."
Sadly, in the past women's sports have not been deemed important enough to be included in the company's main magazine and because of this a separate magazine provides greater equality.
If the magazine works it's economically brilliant. The circulation is set at 450,000 (15,000 for Canada) and aimed directly at women between 16 and 34, a market yet to be effectively tapped by a sports magazine publisher.
It doesn't make sense to include the odd women's story in the regular SI since a lack of consistency will do nothing to increase readership. A few token stories a year hidden in the back pages of SI is not enough to satisfy the market. Women won't buy SI just to read a single story, but a quarterly aimed specifically at women may work to increase readership and interest.
If successful, other publishers will be in search of publications to compete with SI and this should help further promote women's sport. It is just unfortunate it took until the turn of the century for the big-wigs to see the importance of providing for half the population. But hey, it's something.
John Intini can be reached at email@example.com.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999