Following Time Inc.’s overhaul in recent months of the Time, Fortune and Money websites, now it’s Sports Illustrated’s turn.
This week, SI rolls out a radically redesigned site plus a fantasy-gaming app. On deck for later this summer is a live-video network, 120 Sports.
“About two years ago when I started, SI Digital was just a website, and not a very cutting-edge website,” said vp and gm of digital Jim DeLorenzo. “This is the last step of a multiyear process we’ve undertaken to remake that.”
The content makeover began about two years ago when Time Inc. Sports Group editor Paul Fichtenbaum merged print and digital. In recent months, some 20 new edit staffers have joined the team, and SI has launched a slew of verticals including Extra Mustard and Planet Futbol. Meanwhile, publisher Brendan Ripp overhauled sales, with reps now selling across all SI platforms. “There’s a new spirit of innovation and collaboration that we really haven’t seen before at this brand,” Ripp said.
SI.com initially was built on Turner’s network, when Time Inc. was part of Time Warner—meaning the brand had to start from scratch with this retooling. It hired a team of about a dozen developers to build an entirely new front- and back-end experience.
At the heart of the site’s responsive design is a customizable tile format featuring content like articles, newsfeeds, scores, live video, tweets and Instagram pics. The new site puts a premium on video, from short clips and highlights to streaming videos from the daily series SI Now and the forthcoming 120 Sports network.
Ads on the site will range from traditional units to more advanced ones that can be modified—with the aim of combatting “ad blindness”—to include various multimedia components. (The site’s CMS includes a built-in setting to convert any content to native.)
Mobile is also top of mind. “We know that when people come to the mobile site, the first thing they want to see are scores, so we’ve put those front and center,” said DeLorenzo.
A key part of the mobile strategy is the introduction of fantasy-gaming app FanNation. “We’ve always had a lot of fantasy content, but no fantasy games. It’s a big hole for us,” Fichtenbaum noted.
While the major players in fantasy sports tend to focus on season-long, commissioner-style play, FanNation will let users play quick daily games with a new team each time. “It’s ‘snackable’ fantasy,” said DeLorenzo. “You can pick your roster and challenge a friend in 30 seconds.” To make things more interesting, the app allows users to place money bets on their matches, with SI taking a cut of winnings.
“In the last decade, the three big knocks the brand always got was that there weren’t video highlights, we had a subpar mobile experience, and we weren’t involved enough in fantasy,” DeLorenzo said. “Literally, within a 30-day period, we’re going to check off all those boxes.”