In the era of the 24-hour news cycle, it's tough for a news magazine to stay current, and no less so in sports. Just ask Sports Illustrated. So ESPN The Magazine—which only has 26 issues a year to work with—is taking a less time-sensitive approach by building its issues around themes.
“There’s no way to keep up in terms of a news cycle with what’s happening, and I don’t necessarily want us to,” editor in chief Chad Millman told Adweek. “I want our stories to be current and relevant, and I want them to be a part of the conversation that sports fans are having—or drive that conversation.”
Over the next several months, ESPN will release a number of first-time themes, like the Analytics issue, which just hit newsstands. Its cover story features Oakland A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy—a timely choice considering the role that Moneyball has played in piquing the public’s interest in analytics, said Millman. Other new themes include the Great Debate, which attempts to answer the question of who or what is “the greatest” in sports, and the World Football issue.
One issue that seems destined to create some buzz is the magazine’s first History of Women in Sports issue, which will coincide with the 40th anniversary of the divisive Title IX. Although the magazine has a substantial female readership—about 22 percent, according to ESPN—Millman knows that this issue is sure to create some controversy. “I know if we do a women’s issue, there’s going to be a response to that,” said Millman. “You don’t do a magazine because you don’t want people to respond and just have a pleasant experience; you want them to feel one way or the other.”
Millman has stirred controversy before, when he published The Boston issue last year, right before the Red Sox failed to make the playoffs. “My Twitter feed blew up with people blaming me for cursing the Red Sox,” said Millman. “People say print is dead, but clearly it’s not, because I caused the Red Sox to tank!”
For the record, Millman said there are no plans for a Jeremy Lin cover.