Prior to the rise of the internet a few decades ago, print publications throughout the country and beyond had monetization models that relied heavily on revenue from print subscriptions and advertising. Once the internet started gaining popularity, print publications like Sports Illustrated and others created websites and monetized them accordingly. Consumers were developing an appetite for online content and were shifting away from their print subscriptions to popular magazines. Despite having a 70-year history and a massive, global readership, Sports Illustrated also saw readership numbers decline. Its website was producing steady income for the brand, but the monetization strategy was not appropriately designed to account for the drop in print readership.
Ross Levinsohn moved into the leadership position as Sports Illustrated CEO roughly six years ago. At the time, the brand was ripe for change. With his four-decade-long career in the media and print publishing industries, Levinsohn was well-versed in effective monetization strategies and had a strong track record for successful, executive-level leadership. In fact, some of the companies that he has served as a top-level executive over his long career are Yahoo!, Guggenheim Digital Media, Maven Media, CBS Sportsline, Fox and several other recognized companies. When he was with Maven Media, he was directly responsible for managing monetization strategies for the brand’s clients, which included hundreds of major media brands. In one noteworthy move, he supported one of the clients, The Street with Jim Cramer, through a profitable update. In this move, Levinsohn drew from the brand’s consumers’ newfound interest in cryptocurrencies to produce more revenue through a dedicated paywall devoted to this topic.
From his position as Sports Illustrated CEO, Ross Levinsohn has been able to redesign the brand’s monetization model to account for the transition from print readership to website traffic. Specifically, he drew inspiration from his many previous successes, including with The Street with Jim Cramer, to create a successful plan. His goal was to generate more revenue from the brand’s website content. To accomplish this key goal, he produced a special paywall that offered a premium subscription to consumers. With this higher-level, online subscription, consumers would have early access to Sports Illustrated’s content. The success of Levinsohn’s redesigned monetization strategy was so well-noted that it has been an inspiration for some other brands that have dealt with a similar issue.