Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Tribune's tablet magazine for the Bears goes for the middle ground in file size, uses single-sponsor approach

If the Chronicle's 49ers Insider, with its 400+ MB files seems to big, and the Sun-Times Bears Extra seems to short change readers with files sizes too small, then the Chicago Tribune's BearDownload may take the perfect approach for many.
Like the two other new tablet magazines, Tribune Interactive has decided to use the Mag+ platform to create its digital sports magazine. All three new tablet-only products share a certain look and feel that comes with the platform. But all three papers made somewhat different decisions that effected the final product.

While the Chronicle's 49ers Insider chose to support the new iPad with its higher resolution, the Sun-Times chose to cut down on file size, but sacrifice a bit of legibility.

The Tribune app, like 49ers Insider, has 'retina display' support. But the Game 1 issue inside the app weighs in at 205.1 MB, less than half the size of the Chronicle's digital edition. Both magazines only support on orientation: BearDownload goes for portrait while 49ers Insider is landscape (the Sun-Times Bears Extra is portrait). Both magazines are about the same size so it is hard to understand why one digital magazine would be so much larger than the other.

BearDownload also takes a middle ground approach to pricing, as well. Individual issues can be bought for $0.99, while a monthly subscription is $1.99 per month. The Chronicle is offering 49ers Insider for one price of $4.99 for the year, while the Sun-Times chose to offer their digital magazine at no charge.

All three magazines support the Apple Newsstand so if the reader subscribes they can count on their issues being downloaded automatically.
Another area where these three digital magazines differ is in their business models. 49ers Insider is ad supported right from the beginning, while the Sun-Times app is ad-free, at least for now.

The Tribune is again taking a different approach by going with a single-sponsor. The Game 1 issue is sponsored by the Illinois Lottery.

There are plenty of design and font differences, as you'd expect. I think that both the Chronicle's and Tribune's digital magazine are the better looking magazines. But because 49ers Insider is sticky, maybe caused by the file size, the Tribune's BearDownload is the best reader experience.

But because none of the three new digital magazines went for a simply PDF approach for their tablet-only magazines, readers should find these products enjoyable reads.

We'll see over time, though, which business model proves enduring.

Here is a walk-through of the Game 1 edition of BearDownload: