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Swimsuit downloads for your iPod or phone

Fans of Sports Illustrated's bikini issue will be able view the models in the magazine, online or on a handheld device.

This year, fans of Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit issue will have an abundance of choice when it comes to formats for viewing the bikini-clad supermodels.

In addition to the magazine, which appears on newsstands tomorrow, and on the Web site at, fans will also be able to purchase any of eight specially produced videos from, Apple Computer's online store, for $1.99 each, or download content to a cell phone or to a handheld device, through a partnership Sports Illustrated has made with American Greetings Interactive.

Mark Ford, the president and publisher of Sports Illustrated, estimates that newsstand sales of the issue will be around 1.5 million copies, which, when added to the 3.3 million subscribers, is a paid readership of 4.8 million. Ford said that 60 million people or so would read the issue, however, making it the most widely read single issue of any magazine in the world. The swimsuit issue sells for $5.99, compared with the magazine's regular price of $3.50.

"It is the mother ship of what we do. We want to leverage the power of that franchise," said Ford, "Sports Illustrated is a multimedia brand. It's a magazine, it's online, it's mobile, it's an event." Additionally, the magazine has promotional events planned around the country with the beer company, Anheuser-Busch, and with Jay Leno, who will unveil the issue on the "Tonight" show Monday night.

The big question these days, said Samir Husni, a magazine consultant and journalism department chairman at the University of Mississippi, is, "Can you really exist in one medium anymore?"

Magazines today must straddle media to stay ahead of the pack, said Husni. "We are surrounded by media. The intelligent magazines are the ones that are directing the traffic, sending the public from one medium to another. Otherwise it's a one-way street."

Jeff Price, the president of Sports Illustrated digital, said that one example of directing traffic was that each issue of the magazine would have a unique printed number on it that the purchaser could use at to download one free video. He also expects 50 million page views on the Web site in the first week that the issue is out.

Husni said that the swimsuit issue's format was heavily imitated today, but that Sports Illustrated still had the upper hand. "It has become iconic and nobody can take that away from them, no matter how much they try to imitate. Readers are going to say 'Wow!' It will always generate that 'Wow!'"