Monday, April 30, 2012

Tribune Interactive launches a series of tablet magazines into the Apple Newsstand for the sports coverage of the Chicago Bulls and the Orlando Magic

Tribune Interactive today launched two new iPad apps for brand new digital magazines that take the sports coverage from the Chicago Tribune and the Orlando Sentinel and creates new tablet "magazines".
The two new iPad apps, The Bulletin, which covers the Chicago Bulls, and Blueprint for iPad, which covers the Orlando Magic, are great ideas – at least in theory.

Both digital products are a modern take on the tried-and-true newspaper special section, and so are exactly what modern newspaper publishers should be doing.

Once a newspaper (or any publisher) has created the ability to launch tablet editions (and mobile apps) they should be using this new skill to build products that can create new real estate for advertising, or alternatively, new products that the public will pay for. Because of this, I sincerely applaud the idea, if not the execution.

The problem at Tribune Interactive, though, is that their design sense is truly lacking, as believe are reflected in their new web products and the iPad apps that have launched.

The new digital magazines feel like they were thrown together at the last minute. A good example of this are the stats found inside the Orlando Magic app – they show the flag of the Chicago Tribune (oops). Also, the app launched today, at least a half a week too late – the playoffs have already started and so the digital magazines already feel out-of-date (the Bulls, by the way, lost their best player this weekend).

I can't help but feeling, however, that the experience in launching these new apps will be very useful in the long run. Rather than try and launch a special section styled tablet app in a hurry, though, I would have recommended launching apps for the Cubs, White Sox, etc. The lead time would have been greater, and the apps could have been targeted for a few days before Opening Day, with a few days built into the schedule in case something goes wrong.

Besides, a baseball app for the entire season will have, as they say, shelf life. While an app for the NBA playoffs could be obsolete in a moment's notice.

** An anonymous commenter pointed out that The Bulletin launched at the beginning of the season, which would be consistent with my recommended approach to launching sports apps. Blueprint for iPad, though, launched a couple of days after the beginning of the playoffs.


Anonymous said...

You should do a little more research before you publish your blog. The Bulletin (Bulls) actually did launch in time for Opening Day and has been published daily since that time.

Douglas Hebbard said...

You are only half right: the Blueprint for iPad launched two days after the playoffs started.

Chris Courtney said...

Hi Douglas,
Happy to chime in here and clear up any confusion on the timing, styling, etc of these apps.

The Bulletin launched on Christmas Day (trust me, I literally missed Christmas this year). It was a furious push to get this app into the store in time (you'll remember that the season was in lockout mode for quite a while). I feel like the Tribune organization as a whole has grown through the process. Which is why sister publications, like the Orlando Sentinel have joined the fray. While the Bulletin has been around all season, Orlando jumped in for the playoffs. They're still getting a feel for how this should work and I think they will rapidly mature into the platform just as we did.

The true story behind the release date stems back to Apple. The app was submitted to the store on April 11th. Unfortunately, Apple sat on their hands for 19 days before finally releasing the app into the store. We've never had a 19 day delay into the store and we have 71 apps. I don't anticipate anyone feeling sorry for us on the misstep regarding the release date, but I do want people to have a glimpse into what we are dealing with here.

We want to make great, immersive experiences that take advantage of everything these tablet devices have to offer—but to do so means we have to bend to Apple's rules (and application of said rules) for the time being. Ultimately, you'll see these things spring up like wildflowers in great native Web experiences. We're just not quite there yet, but know that is clearly where the train is headed. You only have to wait 19 days once before people in suits start demanding more control over the channels of delivery.