Sports Illustrated and WebMD Team Up for Editorial Series on Sports Injuries

The Comeback Rolls Out Today on Both Sites

By Published on .

Sports loving hypochondriacs, this media partnership is for you.

Sports Illustrated and WebMD -- the place you invariably land when you Google health symptoms -- are teaming up on an editorial series called "The Comeback," which packages a story on an athlete's return from injury with service-y information about the ailment. Part one of the series about Los Angeles Angels pitcher Garrett Richards rolls out today on the Sports Illustrated and WebMD sites and includes video and text.

The tie-up is part of each media company's strategy at attracting more readers, executives said.

"Working with WebMD allows us to broaden our footprint and reach a new audience," said Paul Fichtenbaum, editor of the Sports Illustrated Group at Time Inc., which owns the magazine.

To find that broader readership, Sports Illustrated is stretching the boundaries of sports content. Last year, for instance, it introduced SI Edge, a section on its site about fitness and adventure sports. Another section, Extra Mustard, covers the intersection of sports and pop culture.

"Our mantra here is bigger, broader, younger," Mr. Fichtenbaum added.

It's also looking to wring money from the venture with WebMD. Cialis is the first advertiser attached to the series for Sports Illustrated, both on the magazine's website and in print. Executives at Sports Illustrated declined to say how much the Eli Lilly-owned drug brand paid for the ads.

WebMD handled its own ad sales for the series.

The partnership with WebMD marks the first time Sports Illustrated has joined forces with an outside media company. Last year, it teamed up with Fortune -- which is also owned by Time Inc. -- on a series called "Pro-files" about athletes who swapped sports for business.

"You're going to continue to see this innovation from Sports Illustrated," said Brendan Ripp, Sports Illustrated Group Publisher.

The magazine has sought to grow its business outside of print advertising, where brands are removing their money to invest in digital media. That's led to live events, video series (including an investment in the live-streaming site 120 Sports) and even a fantasy sports betting app. But the shift in business has also sparked cost-cutting measures, such as the reduction of the magazine's entire photo department earlier this year.

Mr. Ripp said the partnership with WebMD arose from a conversation he had with Heidi Anderson, a former Time Inc. staffer who's now WebMD's VP of sales, about a year ago.

Sports Illustrated stands to gain more eyeballs on its content with the partnership with WebMD, which attracted 78 million unique visitors across desktop and mobile in the U.S. in May, according to ComScore. Sports Illustrated fetched about 24 million unique visitors during that time.

About half of WebMD's traffic heads to its health and wellness and lifestyle content, according to Steve Zatz, WebMD's president. "We have a large audience interested in how you exercise and recover from sports injuries," he said.

Sports Illustrated's access and storytelling help liven up content about wellness, according to Kristy Hammam, WebMD's editor in chief. "Readers can learn how they can make comeback," she said.

Expect two more installments from this series later this year. The content is also running in print in both Sports Illustrated and WebMD's magazine.

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