SI Swimsuit Issue: keeping Sports Illustrated relevant (Photo Gallery)

When’s the last time you picked up a copy of Inside Sports (1979-1998) or Sport (1946-2000) magazine? The Sporting News ceased print operations this year after 122 years of publishing. It’s only the SI swimsuit issue that saves the print version of Sports Illustrated from extinction. ESPN the Magazine aside, I could sum up the sports magazine business with a quote from Wham’s Careless Whisper: “there’s no comfort in the truth, pain is the whole you’ll find.” The SI swimsuit issue comes out Thursday, check out the gallery below for preview pics.

I run a media blog and I don’t even have a category for magazines. I'd be better off having a category for telegraph messages.

As is often the case in life, it’s a very different story when boobs are involved. The SI swimsuit issue generates advertising that, in 2005 amounted to $35 million. Today it accounts for 7% of Sports Illustrated’s annual revenue. Generating 7% from just one issue is pretty stellar when you consider the competition they face in lad mags like Maxim and ESPN’s Body Issue; which like the SI swimsuit issue, is just oh so close to having to be placed in plastic/behind the counter when displayed on magazine racks.

But this issue is more of a juggernaut than most of us know.

From Business Insider:

for Time Inc., the publication’s parent company, the Swimsuit Issue means something more: a billion-dollar business that’s bigger than the sports magazine that spawned it. Since becoming a stand-alone issue in 1997, the magazine has become “one of Time Inc.’s biggest revenue drivers over the years, bringing in more than $1 billion,” according to Forbes.

We all know that nothing moves the needle like sex and controversy. And this year’s cover model, Kate Upton seems to have inspired a backlash. The first back-to-back cover model since Tyra Banks since 1997. Now there are people who are in my camp, who believe Kate Upton is just perfect the way she is and the hottest woman alive. Wait till you see the body paint pics of her. Even more stunning than USWNT soccer star Alex Morgan last year.

On the other side are the visually challenged/just plain wrong message board commenters like this:

She’s not “fat” as in, I’d see her on the beach and immediately pick her out of the crowd as being morbidly obese. She is, however, HORRIBLY proportioned and frankly, too fat/out of shape to be modeling swimsuits. She’s about as curvy as my refrigerator. Her face is genuinely pretty, but 8/10 girls I went to school with had better bodies. The fact that she’s so popular says a whole lot about her audience. With the majority of people overweight/obese these days, they’re looking for an outlet with which to justify their fat lazy asses. Unfortunately, her star status doesn’t make the population any less fat or unattractive. Sorry guys.

Fat? She was voted the 3rd most desirable woman alive  Have they seen her Cosmo cover? And her GQ behind the scenes video shoot?

By the way, you can see the whole SI body paint set here. Upton is the Michael Jordan of the supermodel/swimsuit game right now. Everything after that is debatable.

SI offers more sex and controversy as Katherine Webb, the girlfriend of Crimson Tide QB A.J. McCarron and former Miss Alabama makes an appearance. Her photos have leaked. The swimsuit model was ogled (some would say in a normal way, some would say in a creepy way) by Brent Musburger broke the internet for a week after the college football national title game. A game Notre Dame technically showed up to play in. Katherine Webb went from 2,000 Twitter followers to 175,000 literally overnight and she's a huge star now.

The SI Swimsuit issue was an institution in the early 1990s (before it had to compete with the internet in producing masturbation fodder) with big names like Kathy Ireland, Elle Macpherson, Heidi Klum, Rachel Hunter, Tyra Banks, Stacy Williams, Daniela Pestova. Today, there is a new generation of rookies coming up like Michelle Vawer, Nina Agdal, Jessica Perez and Crystal Renn.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to MSN, Chicago Now, and Fox Sports

A Fulbright scholar, published author and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.


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