Mark McClusky, one of Wired’s top executives, is leaving to run digital for Sports Illustrated.
If that news sounds familiar, there’s a reason: Last week, Joe Brown, who ran Wired’s website, left to run Popular Science. In McClusky’s case, he’s leaving after an 11-year run up Wired’s masthead; by the end of it he was the title’s head of operations, heading up product and biz dev.
Like Brown, McClusky is returning to a publication where he got his start — in his case as a reporter for the sports weekly, back in 1994. Now he’s going run the magazine’s website, as well as all the other digital properties in Time Inc.’s sports group, which includes Golf and SI Kids.
Running a digital sports publisher in 2016 is a tricky job, especially for an incumbent, who has to battle competitors that range from upstarts to Facebook and Twitter. That list includes Bleacher Report, which Time Warner bought back when SI and Time Inc. were part of that company, and ended up using as a replacement for SI’s digital stuff.
McClusky gets it, and says SI still has an advantage because of its veteran crew of journalists and the access the title can command. When LeBron James announced that he was rejoining the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, for instance, he did it via SI; this month, the magazine has another extensive story made with James’ participation.
And yes, like everyone else, he’s happy to run his stuff on Facebook, Google’s AMP pages or anywhere else that makes sense. “The trick is to be where and when all the ways and times the audience is interested in you,” he said.
So what’s going on at Wired? ComScore shows a droop in traffic: In July, the publisher had 11.2 million U.S. visitors, down from 13.4 million a year earlier. But in a Facebook Instant Articles/Snapchat/Google AMP world, it’s increasingly hard to gauge a publisher’s health based on its website traffic alone.
McClusky isn’t shedding any light, either. “I love Wired and am committed to what’s going on there,” he said. “The flip side of that is I had been there a long time.”
I’ve asked Wired Editor in Chief Scott Dadich for comment.
Update: Here’s a statement from Dadich. “Wired has always been an incubator for some of the top talent in the industry, and Mark and Joe are prime examples. While I will miss seeing them around the office every day, I’m excited for them to take the next step as leaders in media, and wish my friends the best in their new respective roles.”