Following in the footsteps of the New York Times, Sports Illustrated will be opening the doors to their online archives for free. Not only are we talking current articles - if you want to see what articles were in the November 18, 1991 issue, you will be able to. This is as one of their main competitors, ESPN, charges for access to not only the past information, but also current articles.
On one level, it is counter-intuitive. If you are giving stuff away, how can you make money? On the other hand, it does make some sense. Sports Illustrated is trying to draw more visitors to their site. By opening up their archives (and by letting search engines pull that information in), they are going to draw more traffic. Why is traffic important? They hope to use the traffic to sell products (such as Sports Illustrated subscriptions) and also, more importantly, gain advertising revenue.
If ESPN charges for things and Sports Illustrated is free, I know what site I am going to visit. This will allow Sports Illustrated to charge more for advertising and make more money, since more traffic to their site equals more ad views equals more money.
It is interesting how two very large companies are taking two very different approaches.
Sports Illustrated's "Vault" will debut this Thursday, March 20th.
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