Monday, February 4, 2013

Future PLC partners with the Press Association to create new digital magazine for the EPL: Football Week

The last of a series of posts today on brand new digital magazines/editions found this morning inside the Newsstand.

If the new digital edition of Phoenix Magazine was a modest but appropriate way to bring a print magazine to tablets, and if Outland Moto was a more adventurous way to launch a native tablet-only magazine, than the new digital magazine from Future PLC, Football Week (U.S. App Store link), is a pull-out-all-the-stops, go-for-broke attempt at the new medium.

Future has partnered with the Press Association, the UK’s multimedia news agency and digital content supplier, to launch Football Week. The magazine will preview every English Premier League game, and during the weekend, these stories will be updated with commentary and in-game stats. Afterwards, post-game analysis will be added.

Football Week also will have its own "official gaming partner". EA SPORTS Zone will feature tips, tactics and competitions around FIFA 13, the world’s best-selling sports game, and its most popular game mode, FIFA Ultimate Team. EA SPORTS will also promote Football Week to its social media audiences.

"We truly believe this is the ultimate accompaniment to the weekend’s Premier League action," said Mark Cantwell, Football Week's publisher. "We have focussed on filling the gaps that traditional media like TV, magazines and websites leave behind, to put the consumer at the heart of everything we do and complete their weekend football experience."

"Football Week is a unique iPad product and a genuine first for Future," said Mark Wood, Future's  CEO. "We are moving rapidly outside the boundaries of our traditional business and fusing the best aspects of print and web media together for the tablet. The Press Association has been the best partner possible for this new type of product and although their infrastructure and content are important it is their ambition and willingness to innovate with us that has been key."
Left: the splash page, seen briefly upon first opening the new app; Middle: the store page; Right: a linked page displaying other Future magazine apps.

Inside the app readers can buy single issues for £1.99 ($2.99 or €2.69). Two subscription options are available: 1 month for £3.99 ($5.99 or €5.49), or an annual subscription for £19.99 ($28.99 or €25.99). Obviously, since there is no print equivalent the new magazine doesn't have to deal with the issue of allowing print subscribers to log into the app. If you want to check out this new digital magazine, and you should, the app offers a one month trial subscription free.
"PA is working with Future because of its excellent publishing credentials on Newsstand."
– Tony Watson, Managing Director of the Press Association

The app uses Future's own software solution, FutureFolio. While many, if not most, of Future's digital magazines are replicas, this new digital magazine goes all out. In fact, I think quite a number of readers will find the app confusing and maybe even over the top. There is simply a lot here – from selecting favorite teams, to navigating the content. Readers will have to get comfortable with both the app and the way around it.

But Future has done something truly unique here. While local metro newspaper in the U.S. have begun producing sports tablet magazines for the coverage of local sports teams, few publishers have tried to launch a digital magazine covering one sports, but all the teams in a particular league. I would say that Future's launch of Football Week is sort of the sports equivalent of the launch of The Daily by News Corp.

Football Week may prove controversial as there are those, especially inside the tech community, who are arguing for more austere digital magazines – with simpler design, navigation and article layouts. Football Week is not terribly complicated with it comes to page design, but both the overall make up of the app and the navigation is certainly not replica-like. It will be interesting to see how other publishers, and especially readers, react to this tour-de-force new digital magazine.

(Video walk-through after the break.)

According to a story in The Guardian last week, this new digital magazine will the start of a trend.

"It's the first project from an ongoing partnership between us and the Press Association, bringing the expertise of both to market," Mike Goldsmith, Future's digital editions editor-in-chief, told The Guardian's Stuart Dredge the day before version 1.0 of the app went live.

"PA provide content from both their library content and live feeds, and we curate it. Curation being design, writing and the extra commissioning of new content that hasn't been seen before. This isn't just a feed-reader."

Here is a brief look at Football Week: