I finally got an opportunity a few days ago to peruse the new Sports Illustrated 2008 Swimsuit edition. Around the same time last week, I found myself reading this perplexed blog article on Digital Media Wire regarding the increasing online popularity of this SI hallmark.
To Heather Hopkins or anyone else out there confounded by the online success of the Swimsuit edition, I encourage you to stop racking your brains. This isn’t any kind of rubix cube. First, I doubt there is any particular logic to the prominence of one search term (“sports illustrated swimsuit”) over another (“SI Swimsuit issue.”) If anyone feels differently about this, or there is some particularly marketing ploy at the heart of this, I’d love to stand corrected.
To the larger issue, though, of the online success of the Swimsuit edition, there is clear and logical explanation behind that. First and foremost, the product itself remains unmatched. We’re talking about really beautiful women and its less about the bathing suits this year than ever. The SI Swimsuit edition appears to have gotten somewhat racier over the years and I’ve personally deduced a lot of that has to do with awareness over their principal competition now: online adult content. At the same time, it’s increasingly integrated with pop culture and other popular content tie-ins: Will Ferrell and his new movie, Semi- Pro, Danica Patrick, athlete’s wives and more. I’m sure the studio behind Semi-Pro paid a pretty penny for its sponsorship integration which makes that tie-in all the more compelling for the magazine.
Furthermore, the Swimsuit edition is heavily marketed and have fairly massive distribution. Unlike regular, weekly editions of SI, the Swimsuit version can be found on the shelves of just about any drugstore, grocery store, hair salon or tienda of almost any other kind throughout the US (and possibly beyond I assume.) I’m curious how and why they’ve secured distribution that goes so much wider for this edition than their others but I’m assuming they have a much heavier cost structure to maintain on this episode.
Lastly, this year more than year’s past, the supporting online website for the SI Swimsuit edition is great. The UI is clean and there are some clever applications including a video mash-up feature that could keep a teenage boy engaged on the website for hours. This year, much of the magazine’s content is online for free and its principally monetized through advertising. But, the ads are relatively non-intrusive and the whole user experience online is well thought through.
It’s not a stretch to call the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition a hallmark of winter and, even more broadly, of American society for the last 40+ years. As a product, it continues to evolve with the times and, so, it’s not in the least bit surprising to me that, in 2008, it’s such a popular destination online.