ESPN told its staff Tuesday that the company’s 21-year-old magazine would print its final issue in September, as first reported by John Ourand.
While senior vice president, original content, Rob King told SI in August that ESPN the Magazine “just finished our most successful year, creatively,” the publication’s future has been in doubt since the company combined ESPN Insider and ESPN+ in a bid for digital subscribers.
“Consumer habits are evolving rapidly, and this requires ESPN to evolve as well,” a company statement read. “The only change here is that we are moving away from printing it on paper and sending it in the mail, following September’s release of The Body Issue.”
During its run, The Mag won three National Magazine Awards for General Excellence, most recently in 2017. Its end comes as ESPN continues calculating decisions based on data. President Jimmy Pitaro was an economics major, after all, whereas previous ESPN president John Skipper—who launched the magazine before running the company—studied English literature.
“Our data shows the vast majority of readers already consume our print journalism on digital platforms, and this approach will maximize our reach and impact,” ESPN said in its statement. “In the future, we will explore releasing tentpole collections such as Body in special, differentiated print formats.”
No layoffs came Tuesday, but “a handful” are expected as operations wind down, according to Ourand. It remains to be seen how ESPN will present longform reported content on its existing platforms, and how much of it will wind up behind the ESPN+ paywall that the company has prioritized over the last year.