Thursday, March 21, 2013

OVERLAP: New digital magazine for Major League Soccer hopes to tap into community that is 'very digital'

Greg Lalas played two years in Major League Soccer (MLS), with the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the New England Revolution, and is now the editor-in-chief at Unfairly, though, his Wikipedia page says he is "best known as the brother of Alexi Lalas" – someone needs to correct that. Maybe if TNM had its own Wikipedia for publishers it would read "is best known as the editor of OVERLAP Magazine, the new digital magazine released this morning into the Apple Newsstand.

The new iPad magazine is a collaboration between MLS and the editor of Howler Magazine, a quarterly print magazine that covers soccer from a North American perspective.

"We partnered up with George Quraishi, who is the editor of Howler, and said we loved what they are doing and we wanted to do something that was from a similar perspective, that would take a look at MLS, and MLS-related type of stories. There are so many great stories that aren't being told," Lalas told me this morning.

Lalas met Quraishi when Lalas was a player for the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Quraishi's father was the team's general manager. Lalas loves what Quraishi and his publishing team at Howler are doing with the magazine (which can also found on Zinio's digital newsstand as well as in print).

"Just because its soccer, just because its a soccer magazine, or a soccer app, or a soccer website, doesn't mean you can't apply innovative, challenging, expressive story design and story telling," Lalas said.

OVERLAP will be published quarterly, tailored to the MLS soccer season. The first issue inside the new app was timed to coincide with the beginning of the new season. The second issue will appear around the time of the All-Star game in July. Tthe third issue will appear before the start of the MLS playoffs, while the fourth issue will publish before the MLS Cup which ends the season in early December.

The publishing team used the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite to create the app and its digital edition inside.

"To create this I worked with a really talented designer Joel Speasmaker," Quraishi told me this afternoon. "He and I figured out that Adobe is such an easy way to publish this."

"I'm still trying to figure it out," Quraishi admits, adding "we also have plans for an Android edition."
OVERLAP will tap into a community that Lalas believes is perfect for reaching through digital media.

"For us in particular, the soccer community in the United States and Canada, is very digital," Lalas said.

"The mainstream media has for so long, either willfully or unwillfully, ignored or overlooked the soccer community. As the soccer community grows more and more, there is more of a cultural force behind it all. In particular, there is a soccer culture that is really, really strong. It's very self-expressive, very independent minded, and it's all being done on digital platforms."

Lalas said he sees it as similar to the growth of alternative rock, where mainstream radio and magazines like Rolling Stone ignored the growth of the new music. As a result, independent, regional publications picked up the slack. But whereas a small print magazine can not be read seen outside of a certain region, a digital magazine can be seen worldwide.

"In some ways the soccer community is in a very similar place, where the digital platforms – Twitter, Facebook, blogs, apps, whatever it is – they're doing it themselves, in the same way."

"The next part about is that this (OVERLAP) can go everywhere, I print a zine in Seattle and I'm a kid growing up in Detroit it's very hard for me to see that. I need to really, really look for it."

I asked Quraishi how he saw the design process of creating OVERLAP was different than a print magazine.

"For the iPad we had to make this quite a bit simpler," Quraishi said. "There is a lot less information on every screen, on every frame of the media. Because the way OVERLAP works, you go to a new story and then you scroll down – a continuous scroll down to the end of the story. It's a different way of thinking about how that flows, and how you break up sections, and things like that."

But the digital platform offers the publisher other ways to add content and richness to the magazine, as well.

"The opportunity to put in video and audio was really cool. We have a podcast for Howler that's produced by this really talented radio guy named Matthew Nelson. He contributed two audio stories to OVERLAP that I thought were fantastic," Quraishi said.

In case you missed the video from the last post on OVERLAP, here is a short walk-through the beginning of the first issue: