ESPN has arrived at the same conclusion as many other magazine publishers in a challenged marketplace, deciding to halt publication of its monthly print edition in September after a 21-year run.
The Disney unit did not rule out the possibility of putting out themed print issues in the future, but is moving away from monthly frequency. Staffers have been reassigned to other departments within ESPN, though a spokesperson told Deadline, “We will continue to examine individual roles as we move toward the final print edition in September.” At most a handful of layoffs are possible due to a shift in production.
“Consumer habits are evolving rapidly, and this requires ESPN to evolve as well,” the company said in a statement. “The only change here is that we are moving away from printing it on paper and sending it in the mail.” ESPN also noted that its data indicate “the vast majority of readers already consume our print journalism on digital platforms, and this approach will maximize our reach and impact.”
ESPN began publishing its magazine in 1998, giving Sports Illustrated a run for its money during the infancy of the internet with a take on the sports landscape that emphasized bold graphics and personalities in a larger-sized format. Both books were eventually superseded by websites and then social media. SI, which Meredith is shopping to buyers after acquiring parent Time Inc., recently cut its print frequency and has emphasized video streaming, podcasting and other revenue sources.
Advertising sales were brisk at ESPN in many of its early years and the magazine lured top-tier sportswriters and also offered cross-promotional opportunities to the sports network during a boom period in the 2000s. But after the financial crisis hit in 2008, print in all forms did not recover and many well-established titles have cut their frequency or seen double-digit circulation declines in print.
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