The first story in the 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 run a mile in under four minutes. Both cracked 4:00 again, Bannister won it by a hair and the magazine ran a photo of the pair chatting on the track moments after. Just behind them, occupying a space usually reserved for insider types, stands a man in jacket and tie, soaking in the scene and the conversation.
That man was Bob Schulman, one of two SI writers at the event—and while he no doubt figured he was just doing his job, he was blazing a trail that SI has followed ever since. To this day, we take our audience deeper inside the game and closer to the biggest names in sports than anyone else. Pick any SI writer, photographer, videographer or podcaster, and you’ll see they have spent a career finding ways to get inside the ropes. 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 as well as in a magazine. But one thing hasn’t changed. No matter how you tell a story, getting one that stands out is hard. Through the decades we’ve supported our journalism with print and digital advertising, and thanks to a loyal audience of magazine subscribers. Now, with the recent unveiling of a metered paywall at SI.com, we’ve created 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 quality digital content that’s worth your time is also worth your support. Because a model reliant 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.
Every visitor to SI.com will have an allotment of free premium articles per month; after that you’ll be asked to subscribe to unlock unlimited access. You’ll also have full access to our magazine archive dating back to that first issue; digital subscribers will also get early access to magazine stories, a custom newsletter, exclusive content and audio versions of select stories.
In a 1954 note to readers, SI’s first publisher outlined his goals. “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, 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 if you’re not a subscriber we encourage you to become one. Let’s run this race together for a long time to come.