Sports Illustrated‘s new management said in a memo to staffthat it’s not replacing workers who were fired last week with “an army of bloggers and inexperienced local reporters.” The magazine plans to publish a mix of stories from its own editorial staff, while overseeing a network of independent contractors who cover local sports.
The magazine’s “commitment to premium storytelling and the most talented storytellers is not going anywhere,” according to the memo from Ross Levinsohn, CEO of Sports Illustrated, and newly appointed co-EICs Ryan Hunt and Steve Cannella.
Last week, Sports Illustratedcut about 25% of staff, sparking a backlash among employees who protested the new owner’s plan to recruit contract workers. TheMaven Inc. took control of the publication from Meredith Corp., which had sold Sports Illustrated to licensing company Authentic Brands Group for about $110 million. Authentic Brands licensed the rights to publish the magazine to theMaven.
Levinsohn, Hunt and Cannella acknowledged that last week’s newsroom cuts were “painful” for everyone involved, and described a plan to publish in-depth stories alongside real-time updates, embrace mobile platforms, produce more video and re-establish coverage of local sports.
By the second quarter of next year, local sports coverage will be distributed among more than 200 team channels that carry the Sports Illustrated banner and are operated by what the magazine calls “entrepreneurs.”
Without detailing how the magazine will split revenue with contractors, the memo said third-party businesses will receive a share of the revenue their channel generates, giving them an incentive to build an audience and drive web traffic.
The company has signed local sports broadcasters such as Mike Fisher to cover the Dallas Cowboys, Christopher Walsh to cover University of Alabama football and John Bohnenkamp to cover the University of Iowa football, as a few examples.
The company also is seeking budding college journalists to create content for the team channels, but it’s up to each channel to determine how much they will pay.
“To our knowledge, no entrepreneurs or their businesses have ever solicited anyone to create content for free, and we expect these businesses to comply with all applicable laws,” the memo said.
Sports Illustrated sets quality standards for the content on the channels.