Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Both Chicago dailies launch digital magazines for their Bears coverage; the Sun-Times goes free with its effort

If you read the post below about the new app 49ers Insider, you know that I am a 49ers fan (Giants, too) – this despite the fact that many years ago I moved from the Bay Area to Chicago.

To say that the sports scene is different in Chicago, when compared to California, would be a major understatement. While fans are very loyal out West, they are rabid here in Chicago. Any town that could tolerate the ravings of Hawk Harrelson...
So it shouldn't be surprising that the local papers, Tribune and Sun-Times, would want to make sure they are feeding their readers craving for more and more sports coverage.

This year the two papers have gotten on the tablet publishing bandwagon with their own Bears digital magazines. This post is about the effort from the Sun-Times, later this afternoon we'll post about the Tribune's effort.

Bears Extra by Chicago Sun-Times makes an interesting comparison with the Chronicle's 49ers Insider. While the 49ers digital magazine weighed in at over 400 MB, the Week 1 issue of the Sun-Times digital title was under 40 MB.

One might chalk this up to different digital publishing platforms, but the fact is that both digital magazines are using the Mag+ platform.

The two newspapers have taken different approaches here: one magazine is in landscape-only (49ers), the other in portrait-only (Bears); one magazine supports the new iPad's high resolution display (49ers), the other reduces file size by going low rez (Bears).

The Sun-Times Bears magazine brags that it has video highlights inside the digital magazine, which would make you wonder how the file size could be so small. But as you will see in the video below, the video link takes you outside the app to the NLF Network website. There you are get a pre-roll ad.

In fact, advertising is another way to differentiate the two apps: while the Chronicle app includes fullscreen ads from local advertisers, the Sun-Times app is ad-free (except for the ads that appear on the outside websites accessed through the app). The Chronicle app also is charging for access, $4.99 for the season (year), while the Sun-Times app is free-of-charge. This also differentiates it from the Tribune app for the Bears.

It would be interesting for the two production teams to get together to compare their apps. Like any product launch, choices have to be made that impact the finished product. These two digital magazines, so similar in many ways, end up taking very different approaches to the business model, resolution and orientation.

But both can't help including pictures of the cheerleaders.

Here is a short walk-through the Week 1 issue of Bears Extra by Chicago Sun-Times: