The very first story in the very first issue of Sports Illustrated—Aug. 16, 1954—was on the Miracle Mile, a showdown between Roger Bannister and John Landy, then the only two humans to have run a mile in fewer than four minutes. Both runners cracked 4:00 again. Bannister came from behind on the last lap and won it by a hair. And inside the story the magazine ran a photo of the pair chatting on the track moments after crossing the finish line. Just behind them in the photo, occupying a space usually reserved for athletes and coaches and other insider types, stands a man in jacket and tie, unheeded by the athletes, soaking in the scene and the conversation.
Talk about being a fly on the wall for history. That man was Bob Schulman, one of two writers covering the event for Sports Illustrated—and while he no doubt figured he was just doing his job, he was blazing a trail that SI has been following ever since. To this day, we take our audience deeper inside the game and closer to the biggest names in sports than anyone else. We tell distinctive stories that can be found here and here alone. Pick any SI writer, photographer, videographer or podcaster, and you’ll see they have spent a career finding ways to get farther inside the ropes than the competition. We’ve been doing it since 1954. There’s photographic proof.
Schulman had no clue that in 2021 we’d be at it 24/7, on your phone, online, in videos and tweets and posts and podcasts as well as in a magazine. But one thing hasn’t changed. No matter how you tell a story, getting one that stands out in a crowded media landscape is hard. Through the decades we’ve supported our journalism in two ways: with print and digital advertising, and thanks to an extremely loyal audience of magazine subscribers that’s still nearly two million strong. Now, with the unveiling today of a metered paywall at SI.com, we’re creating a new path to ensure SI’s continued growth and excellence.
SI.com—which in January drew its largest monthly audience ever—launched in 1997. So, why a paywall now? Because the internet has changed, and savvy media consumers know that quality digital content that’s worth your time is also worth your support. Because a model based solely on advertising exposes our storytelling capabilities to market forces we can’t control. And because we want to build the kind of connection, loyalty and trust with our digital audience we’ve long had with the magazine.
Here’s how it works. Every visitor to SI.com will have an allotment of free articles per month; after that you’ll be asked to subscribe to unlock unlimited access to the Daily Cover and the rest of our premium stories, videos, podcasts and photos. You’ll also have full access to the SI Vault, our magazine archive dating back to that first issue. In addition, subscribers get early access to magazine stories each month, a newsletter with custom features, exclusive content from the best sports journalists in the business and audio versions of select magazine stories. Breaking news posts; content from FanNation, our network of team-specific sites; and SI Swimsuit posts are not metered.
In a 1954 note to readers, SI’s first publisher outlined the goals for his upstart media brand. “A big part of our obligation … is to get the action to you on the very heels of the events,” he wrote. “[We’ll bring] you as close to that action as possible, wherever in the world it takes place.” We’ve come a long way since then, but the vision still holds—and it has value in a world where digital information is plentiful but quality, trustworthy, premium storytelling is not. We thank you for reading and visiting, and if you’re not a subscriber we encourage you to become one. Let’s run this race together for a long time to come.