In the interest of full disclosure, let me make something clear right off the, uh, bat: I love Sports Illustrated. It’s my favorite magazine and has been for many years now, so it’s little wonder that the Sports Illustrated website is my go-to online source for all manner of sports information (aside from those dedicated to my favorite pro and college teams, but that’s another story for another post).
Launched in 1954, SI has become one of the most popular magazines in the history of publishing and a benchmark for superb writing—including investigative reporting and in-depth features—and, of course, its signature photography. No other sports title puts the reader “there”—in the moment, at the event—quite like SI. The magazine’s Sportsman of the Year award is as eagerly anticipated as any Oscar, while an appearance on the cover of SI, in spite of the “jinx” that many athletes swear goes along with it, comes with more than a little notoriety (not always the welcome variety). What SI has brought to sports journalism in particular and magazine publishing in general has carried over beautifully to the Web.
The words “A CNN Network Site,” which appear just below the main banner on the top of the homepage, make you instantly aware that this is very much part of an enormous corporate entity, as do the links at the bottom to other online branches of the Time Warner publishing and broadcasting family tree. But this in no way diminishes SI.com’s impact as a titan of credible and amazingly diverse amounts of sports information and imagery.
Now, on to my ratings in the specific categories.
Strength of Content: 10
From Peter King’s acclaimed “Monday Morning QB” column—a must-read for any NFL fan—to a slew of other first-rate writers, bloggers and all manner of other contributors, SI.com casts a very wide and impressive net. Quite simply, there isn’t much in the sports realm that isn’t covered here, and it’s done with thoroughness, creativity and, where appropriate, typically sharp SI humor (the magazine has long been known as a prime purveyor of puns and some of the cleverest headline writing you’ll ever read). An interesting feature called SI Vault looks back at major stories the mag has covered over the decades. And of course, there’s the requisite (and truly “Inside”) coverage of all the major sports entities: NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, college football and basketball, NASCAR, golf, boxing, horse racing, soccer and tennis. Want more? How about high schools and mixed martial arts? And in a rather nebulous category called, simply, More, there’s everything from cycling and cricket to figure skating and track-and-field.
Cool feature: You can “personalize” your SI.com—as long as you don’t clear your browser’s cache—so that it shows scores from your six favorite pro and college teams on the MySI banner at the top of the homepage.
Ease of Use and Navigation: 8
In general, very well done. Easy-to-find tabs provide quick access to a wide array of sections including photos, video, some thought-provoking sections such as Extra Mustard (everything from bizarre photographs to the exploits of knucklehead pro athletes) and Truth & Rumors, FanNation, fantasy sports, a section for youngsters called SI Kids, and, yes, the omnipresent link to SI’s popular if occasionally controversial swimsuit edition, which comes out each February (for some reason, I never forget the month). The search function, though, while better than that on many sites, often leaves me wanting a bit more precise results.
Use of New Technology: 10
By all appearances, SI.com has everything that savvy and digitally attuned consumers of information have come to expect. It didn’t take SI long to roll out its app for the hot new Apple iPad, and from all indications, it’s a beaut.
Design and Layout: 8
Sometimes, there are simply too many ads (annoying pop-up and otherwise), teasers and promos, but all in all, it’s a clean, smartly organized and graphically appealing site. The sans-serif font used for most of the text is easy on the eyes, and the photography and other visual elements are typically SI superb.
Level of Social Media Sophistication: 10
All the usual and now expected links to Twitter, Facebook, RSS, podcast, et al., are right there, prominently displayed on the homepage, if you want them. I can’t speak from personal experience, but ostensibly, SI is keeping up with, if not staying ahead of, the curve in the social media arena.
Overall Rating: 46 out of 50