Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bulls Extra by Chicago Sun-Times has some fun with the digital magazine format

A week ago the Chicago Sun-Times released a second digital magazine in support for its local sports team coverage. Bulls Extra by Chicago Sun-Times, as the name implies, will be the digital magazine for the Chicago Bulls, and like its Chicago Bears equivalent, appears to be using the Mag+ platform to create its issues.

On the 23rd, when the app first appeared in Apple's Newsstand, the app did not contain any issues, however. A few days later the first issue previewing the new season finally appeared in the app. This was a bit unfortunate as launch day is usually the most important day for any new app. But since the first issue is now available it seems fair to take a look.

The Sun-Times is offering its new digital sports magazines free of charge. A reader can subscribe to the digital magazines inside the Newsstand app so that their issues will download automatically.

The first issue, featuring the often hurt Derrick Rose on the cover, weighs in at 102.4 MB. The magazine is to be read in portrait, saving a bit of file space.

The production staff seems to be getting comfortable with the Mag+ platform used to create the app (I am assuming this is using Mag+, there is no licence notice in this app). The layouts are creative and definitely native for the tablet platform.

The business model here, one would assume, is to create some new real estate for advertising (at least, I hope there is a business model here). While the competition to the Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune, is charging for its own digital sports magazine Bears Download, the Sun-Times has decided to go free. It's a logical way to go, though I'd like to have seen more ads here, though it may be that the sales team is still gearing up.
The content here is obviously related to what the Sun-Times is producing for its print and online products. But this digital magazine app is strictly an iPad affair.

For the iPhone, the Sun-Times has launched a stand-alone app, Bulls Extra for iPhone by Chicago Sun-Times, in partnership with Inergize Digital. The app is a standard news reader app.

The Sun-Times could have attempted to use Mag+ to create a digital magazine for the iPhone, but decided here to go with the news approach.

It makes sense, though the unfortunate part of the new app is that the new iPhone 5's screen size is not supported. For an app released at the end of October, well after the release of iOS 6, it seems strange that a third party developer would release an app without iPhone 5 support.

Here is a brief walk-through part of the new digital magazine: