Friday, May 20, 2011

The Red Bulletin launches first iPad app; the magazine is in a unique position - it has marketing dollars behind it

For a magazine designed to promote a product, Red Bull, the Red Bulletin is showing quite healthy growth. Now claiming a circulation of 4.6 million for its various editions, the magazine has just released its first tablet edition and it is very well done, indeed.
The Red Bulletin is a free iPad app download that gives readers free access to both English and German language editions.

But what makes this magazine really unique is that its creator, Red Bull Media House, is actually spending money to promote it. Just this week, the company inserted copies of the US print edition into AdAge issues. I assume that cost a fortune as the magazine is a typical European A4 sized publication at 100 pages.

According to the promotional flyer that accompanied the print magazine, 1.2 million copies of the magazine are distributed in the US using newsstands. events, mail and as a Sunday supplement in the The Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, The New York Daily News, The Houston Chronicle and The Chicago Tribune. These five daily newspapers have a combined circulation of well over the 1.2 million mentioned in the flyer, so I have no idea how they determine how many to insert into each paper, and how many each paper gets.

The flyer gives a clue, I guess: the magazine is designed to reach s 15 to 34 year old demographic, presumably the target market for the Red Bull energy drink.

"The idea for The Red Bulletin was conceived at 2:30 in the morning in a mountain hut in the Austrian Alps near Salzberg," Red Bull CEO Dietrich Mateschitz states in the introductory column of the issue.

"It attempts to convey that spark of excitement that rushes through the unique people who manage to transform their crazy ideas into reality, thanks to the energy in their bodies and minds."

(Sounds like Base Commander Jack D. Ripper should have been drinking Red Bull to avoid 'loss of essence'.)

The tablet edition and the print edition share their main features, but of course treat them very differently. The cover feature on two-time Cy Young Award winning pitcher Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants is a good example.

The print edition has a series of photographs of his pitching motion that appears to have been taken directly from the video that was shot for the iPad edition. The layouts are fairly traditional print layouts with an emphasis on photography. The tablet edition concentrates on the video content which can be seen in landscape mode (the portrait layouts tell you to switch the orientation of your tablet).

The video content and the app's animation is extremely well done here. The user interface is fairly standard tablet magazine design, but the transitions are excellent.

The tablet edition does not try and duplicate the front part of the print magazine which contains lots of little news stories. Instead it just moves right into the features. Clearly this first tablet edition was conceived at the same time of the print edition, improving both.

And there, I suppose, is the big lesson to be learned here: if you are going to create a tablet edition it should not be produced after the print edition has been put to bed, but should be part of the original work – this will greatly improve both products as The Red Bulletin clearly demonstrates.


Update: Bloomberg yesterday afternoon posted a mega-profile of Red Bull's CEO Dietrich Mateschitz and mentions the company's media efforts – worth a read.