As journalists, we're accustomed to asking questions. The two that SI's editors ask most often are "What does our reader want?" and "How are we going to deliver it?" Now the answers to those questions—as well as certain advances in technology—have led us to a cutting-edge vision of SI that becomes a reality with this issue.
The concept is extended edit, and the magazine's first application of it is to provide bonus coverage of the NFL. A subscriber who wants to read more about his or her favorite team can receive four extra pages of news and notes about that team and its division several times a season by choosing a division when resubscribing. Thus a San Francisco 49er fan stranded in Connecticut or the Cincinnatian craving more coverage of the Bengals might open his SI during the football season and go INSIDE THE NFC WEST or INSIDE THE AFC CENTRAL—in addition to getting the magazine's usual array of weekly NFL notes, game stories, features and photos.
"We did a lot of surveying of our readers about what they want, and the idea of expanded NFL coverage registered at the top," says SI senior marketing manager Joyce Hansen. "And doing it by covering each of the NFL's six divisions on a rotating basis is a perfect match with SI."
And just how, technologically speaking, do we do this? The answer begins, innocuously enough, with the address label on the cover of a subscription issue. The label information allows computers along the rapid-fire binding line where the magazine is put together to "read" each label as it passes down the line and, thus, to know whether a particular copy of SI should receive extended-edit material or not. The main limitation of this process is that we cannot note the location of the extra section on the contents page of the magazine, though the extended edit will always appear adjacent to our regular weekly NFL notes column.
George M. Baldassare Jr., SI's production director, oversees the extended-edit binding process. "What's exciting is that we can take a manufacturing technology and marry it with the creative part of our magazine, the editorial product," he says. "It provides us with endless possibilities of ways we can meet the needs of the reader."
Which raises yet another question: Where will the extended-edit process eventually take SI? To bonus stock car and college basketball packages? To team-by-team baseball coverage? To tailor-made magazines? In January we will launch a weekly golf section for more than 400,000 SI readers.
Anyone interested in resubscribing and receiving extended edit can call a toll-free number, 1-800-528-5000, or write to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Customer Service, P.O. Box 60001, Tampa, FL 33660-0001.
Hansen and Baldassare have helped us kick off bonus coverage.