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CEO Ross Levinsohn Presses the Gas Pedal on Sports Illustrated’s Premium Paywall Structure

Ross Levinsohn By 2016 when Ross Levinsohn took on the role of Sports Illustrated CEO, the brand was sitting at a crossroads. As a major sports publishing brand, Sports Illustrated had a long-standing history of producing exceptional content for its many readers across the world. For much of the brand’s 70-year history, it had relied heavily on the print magazine for revenue from ads and subscriptions. However, the internet came roaring to life several decades ago, and it quickly gained prominence. As consumers turned their interests to digital content, they pulled away from print magazines. For Sports Illustrated and other prominent print publishing brands, the need for a monetized website quickly became obvious.

While Sports Illustrated had a great website by the time Levinsohn became the Sports Illustrated CEO, that website’s income was insufficiently keeping pace with the drop in print-side revenue. Levinsohn, a well-known leader in the media and print worlds, had more than 40 years of experience to tap into for inspiration. In fact, over the course of his illustrious career, he has sat in key executive positions at companies like Maven Media, Fox, Whisper Advisors, Yahoo!, CBS Sportsline, Guggenheim and others.

Through his work at Maven Media, which is a well-known service provider for hundreds of media industry companies and brands, he was able to hone his monetization skills. Maven Media specifically provides critical monetization services to its clients, which include The Street with Jim Cramer. For this particular brand, Ross Levinsohn was able to tap into changing consumer interests to raise revenue. This was accomplished by producing in-demand cryptocurrency news and offering it through a dedicated paywall.

This and other monetization maneuvers served as inspiration for the Sports Illustrated CEO. His goal at Sports Illustrated was not to produce more content, however. Instead, he needed the established content to be more valuable. To accommodate this goal, he elevated content by offering it through a premium paywall first. This gave premium-level subscribers early access to some of the brand’s most desired content. In this and other moves, Levinsohn has been an inspiration for the companies he has worked for and for other brands that have looked for guidance with their own challenges.