Lauren Indvik, the Associate Editor of Marketing and Media for Mashable, recently spent some time around the Sports Illustrated offices, speaking to our editors, designers and operations teams about SI’s digital development strategy and workflow. The result is a multi-part series on how Sports Illustrated is forging the model for app development in the media industry.
In her first story (7/26/11), which looks closely at how SI is jumping into the emerging non-iOS tablet market, Indvik labels SI’s All Access strategy as “the model that other successful magazine publications will inevitably imitate,” noting the consistent quality and voice across all platforms and easy access to content for consumers. SI’s efficiency in creating multiple weekly editions is called an “impressive feat,” as is the “seamless” integration of workflow to produce four tablet issues each week. In the follow-up piece (7/31/11) Indvik says, “It became clear that Sports Illustrated has alighted upon the best model for a print magazine in the digital age, not only in terms of content and design (i.e. the product itself), but also in the way the publication has organized its staff and workflow to produce consistently top-tier products across multiple platforms.”
Indvik spoke to a large cross section of SI’s team who are involved in publishing four editions each week. Some of their quotes are after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »
For the past 12 years the “Where Are They Now?” issue has, to the staff of Sports Illustrated, become as synonymous with summer as backyard pool parties. And as one of our thickest issues of the year—there are seven feature-length stories running as part of the 2011 package—it is a natural fit for the tablet’s capacity for layering on additional information. Readers on the tablet not only get to read about the journey that each sports figure travelled from “then” to “now.” Through a vivid collection of video, photographs, podcasts and interview transcripts, they get to see and hear why.
So what are we offering up? For those readers whose appetites were whetted by Charlie Sheen recalling his time on the set of Major League, you’re in luck: We have the transcript of the entire two-hour interview with one of Hollywood’s most notorious bad boys. There’s also a video package on our cover subject, Yogi Berra, in which the Yankees legend recalls his days as a player and his oft-repeated quotations. Ever wonder what a 7′ 4″ man riding a horse looks like? Find out when Pablo S. Torre travels to Utah to visit former Jazz center Mark Eaton as part of a larger package on NBA 7-footers. And then there’s legendary photographer Walter Iooss Jr. discussing the photo shoots he had with nine living NFL legends and the memories they gave him as a young man. There’s also a gallery detailing the history of the Women’s World Cup (in conjunction with a feature on Michelle Akers), a podcast with Sir Roger Bannister and much, much more.
Also featured this week is SI’s Ultimate Playlist, which is one of the richer integrations of multimedia we’ve had on the tablet. As readers flip through SI’s of list of the 40 best sports songs of all time, they have the option of playing a sample and/or buying each song from the iTunes store in a seamlessly designed music catalog. In addition to the digital enhancements, there is also a landing page, SI.com/music—linkable from the tablets, of course—that also features full write-ups on SI’s Top 40 and an iTunes legend where one can download all the songs plus 20 additional tunes mentioned in the sidebars of the story. It’s not the only musically inclined digital enhancement this week. For the Inside Olympic Sports column, legendary photographer Bill Frakes created a music video of all the action from this past weekend’s U.S. Track and Field Championships.
Finally, this issue was another example of how the tablet allows for flexibility amidst constant shifts in the news cycle. The edit team put together a digital package paying tribute to the late Lorenzo Charles after the print issue had closed. It starts with the inclusion with a Leading Off picture that appears as the third photo in the section. From there, readers can click to read a moving obituary penned by senior writer Joe Posnanski and the original SI story that ran after NC State’s unlikely title game victory in 1983. In addition, a link to the video of Charles’s game-winning dunk is also available.
As you can tell by this week’s cover and the images inside the magazine the NBA playoffs look different through the lenses of SI photographers. Director of photography Steve Fine will tell you that “what makes us different is our use of remote cameras to capture the action from unique angles. Also, in a world of medium focal lengths, we go long and tight or short and wide to bring a different perspective to the game.” There is also the fire power. SI photographers shot 26,140 pictures over the first six games of the NBA conference finals this week, 14,341 through the first eight games of the NHL conference finals and 1,723 at the Preakness, with different angles at every turn. To make more of this work available to fans on the iPhone or Android smartphone, SI has developed BIG TICKET (available on the Apple App Store or Android Market for 99 cents), which shows off SI’s photography from the world’s biggest sporting events.
Glowing as it does on the backlit glass screens, photography also lifts the SI iPad edition as we layer in an additional 25% to 30% of original content: This week includes an evolutionary look at the Indy 500—the cars and men (and women) who made it a spectacle of speed and danger. In February we commemorated the Super Bowl with a photo gallery of all 45 SI covers from the game; we will do the same with the NBA Finals. Such traditional content is underlined by equally strong innovation, such as GigaPans offering panoramic views of the Super Bowl that you can pinch and zoom in so tight that you can see yourself—provided you were at the game—in shockingly high definition (and look, that’s Cameron Diaz whispering in A-Rod’s ear). It will be amusing to see whom the GigaPan picks up next.
Note: This Editor’s Letter will be published in the May 30, 2011 issue of Sports Illustrated, out tomorrow.
On Monday night we put the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated to bed. Early Tuesday, Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew passed away. Seeing as how the only way to get coverage into the print issue would be to go door-to-door and hand our subscribers updated pages, we decided to focus our efforts on the digital editions of the magazine. The result: some pretty amazing coverage that underscores the awesomeness that comes with the flexibility that tablets provide.
To wit: A classic photo of Killebrew was inserted into the Leading Off section, and three links were put on the page. The links led to tributes written by Tom Verducci, Steve Rushin and Joe Posnanski. As sportswriting trios go, it doesn’t get much better than that. And each piece was accompanied by a different timeless photo of Killebrew. It makes for a wonderful tribute—and a nice reminder of the fluidity that is possible in the digital era.
Expect to see more of the same going forward—even when there aren’t major news breaks after the print deadline. Last week Chris Hercik, SI’s creative director, gave a sneak preview of version 2.0 of the SI iPad app, which will be out in July. The most prominent feature is automatically refreshing content embedded in the magazine, so readers will have the latest news right there on the same page as the stories from the magazine.
The Killebrew collection wasn’t the only digital extra this week, of course. The gripping cover story about how last month’s brutal tornado in Tuscaloosa affected University of Alabama athletes—and their role in contributing to the effort to rebuild Tuscaloosa—was accompanied by a video featuring the story’s author, Lars Anderson, who lives in Birmingham and teaches a class at Alabama. The NBA story about the Chicago Bulls’ defense was enhanced by a graphic breakdown of each player’s responsibilities, as well as a preview of the Western Conference finals—the kind of up-to-the-second digital news piece that will become even more prominent in the coming weeks.
Now, there is the SI iPad sub.
As the SI iPad app—born in the mind of a visionary three springs ago and clairvoyantly developed soon thereafter —approaches it first birthday, SI, in conjunction with its parent, Time Inc., and Apple have agreed on a subscription model that enables each of its 3.1 million subscribers to download the app on their iPads for free, gratis. The how-to, articulated very clearly by the aforementioned visionary, can be found here.
So what do our newbies get? The magazine, of course, designed with an intuitive navigational system that mirrors the reading experience of the paper copy, but also includes plenty of interactive extras, including Luke Winn’s look at the top 10 uncommitted high school basketball recruits, which accompanies Bruce Schoenfeld’s fine piece on the lonely life of the college hoops recruiter; additional Leading Off photos, further enhanced by a slideshow on the career of the magical, maniacal Seve Ballesteros, who passed away this week at age 54; and a multimedia behind-the-scenes look at the Kentucky Derby, shot and produced by our Bill Frakes.
I’d like to single out another enhancement, which appears only on the iPad. This extra especially captures the sensibility and possibilities for the tablet experience going forward. It is authored by Bethlehem Shoals, one of the masterminds behind the basketball blog that—to this mind, at least—reshaped not only the way we view a beautiful game, but the possibilities for smart, occasionally long-form content in the digital ether. The great Tommy Craggs does a far better job than I will of explaining the significance of FreeDarko.com as a leading edge of the blogging culture. I will merely relay that Bethlehem is still working his magic, this week in an iPad exclusive timeline of The Guy in the NBA over the last half century, from Wilt and Russell, to Kobe and the King. It is, like his entire oeuvre, worth checking out.
Also, worth noting about the SI app is our ability to tap into the bottomless and rich reserve of archival material that stretches over the 57-year history of the magazine. This week, we offer a once-in-a-lifetime hitting roundtable between Ted Williams, Wade Boggs and Don Mattingly, hosted by Peter Gammons in the spring of 1986. Like so many treasures in the SI Vault, this one rings as relevant today as it did 25 years ago. Give it a lookee. As we move forward, you will notice us tapping more into the Vault, marrying current stories and photographs with related ones from the past. In the coming weeks, we will also be introducing some technological tweaks that will enable you to access some of the best, relevant features from our website, SI.com, and our social media networks.
Good times. Exciting times.
- Chris Stone