A few feet from where I’m typing this lies 40 years worth of Rolling Stone — not in stacks of paper, but DVDs nestled in a box meant to resemble a coffee-table book. (We waited until the price dropped from $100-plus to under $20.) Like the earlier archival set from The New Yorker, it’s finite; this set of RS ended in May 2007. Both are fragmented into disks, preventing instant search and access across the archive. It’s an unfair but hard-to-avoid comparison as I dodge in and out of the SI Vault, Sports Illustrated’s just-launched online dynamic archives that expands as print editions are published and with daily updates from SI.com.
With a few clicks, a user can delve right in to issues spanning 54 years; roughly 150,000 stories, 2,800 covers and 500,000 photographs. (Interactive issues are available for 1954-1995 now with the rest to be added “soon.”) The SI Vault Wiki powered by Wikia’s ArmchairGM gives users the chance to build a sports encyclopedia. Editor choices provide entry points for those without a specific search in mind and it all links back to the main site.
That’s what the user sees. Time Inc. and SI see much more. As Jeff Price, president of SI Digital explains, the SI Vault is meant to be a framework for modern sports history. SI can drive discovery and take search engine optimization much deeper with key topic pages and by linking and aggregating to related content like video search through sibling AOL’s (NYSE: TWX) Truveo, eBay (NSDQ: EBAY) collectibles, the wiki links. (Putting it all up required a new classification system and the thousands of tags for the most complete metadata and flexible search.) The platform to host the Vault and dynamically render pages was built by sibling Turner Broadcastings’ digital group; SI.com is part of the CNN Network, so Turner benefits from any increased traffic. Eventually, SI plans to add stats feeds, trivia, original video programming, self-publishing and more.
By the numbers: The Vault launched Thursday so these are early numbers. According to data provided by SI, through Monday the site drew 231,000 unique visitors (97,000 Monday) producing 2.5 million page views (900,000 Monday) and spending an average of 9.5 minutes per visit.