Even the best golfers are never done perfecting their swings. Thus, photos breaking down each aspect of a proper drive, pitch or put have proven consistently popular for for the Conde Nast magazine since it debuted in the 1950s. But for many readers, a dozen or so photos have never been enough. Some need to see the correct swing in action
The iPad is letting that happen.
Since rolling out its first iPad issue in April, Golf Digest has taken what have traditionally been 20 photo swing sets and turned them into roughly 100 photo sequences that users can thumb through as quickly or as slowly as they want using the devices’ touch screen. That’s a prime example of how golf instruction and, to a greater extent, magazine publishing change on a tablet.
“We’ve been doing swing sequences for years and years, and people love them,” said senior editor Craig Bestrom. “But in a digital issue, you can drag your finger across a screen. It’s almost like watching a video. We’re doing this with almost every instruction story we do. It’s a whole new way of learning.”
And a whole new way of presenting golf editorial. For example, while the first four issues of Golf Digest on the iPad don’t look radically different from a print issue. But one major difference is that editors can now use the cover for more than just a photo and headlines. For example, it’s a perfect place to stick video.
In the July issue, Bestrom and his team placed a link to a 40-second video clip of b-roll footage from pro golfer Adam Scott’s cover shoot. “The response has been amazing,” said Bestrom, who said that Golf Digest will start trying this more and more with bigger features.
“A new challenge for us is getting time with stars [for this sort of thing],” he said. “But at least for now they are happy to give you an extra 15 minutes when doing an interview for the print issue.”
So far, Bestrom and his team are bit in the dark with just how well video and photo sequenceing are performing on the app (Apple is not known for been terribly forthcoming with data). But an upcomng custom data report from Omniture will be key.
One key piece of learning has been that videos are better off being embedded within each digital issue; many iPad users are reliant on WiFi — and don’t want to downloard an issue that doesn’t have video baked in.
Memory is also a limiting factor, at least for now, though Bestrom expects that will improve. “You don’t want to ask people to wait too long to download a single issue of a magazine,” he said.
Golf swings and player interviews are the only areas the iPad has changed Golf Digest’s publishing approach. Besides using video and more photos to enliven editorial, the magazine has started offering the same sort of touch-screen-friendly bells and whistles to advertisers.
The Scotch brand Glenmorangie recently ran custom video ads where the user can watch a drink being made and poured. “With our digital editions on the iPad, readers get an even more immersive experience within the ads,” said Tom Bair, Golf Digest vp and publishing director. “Our partners get a chance to execute greatly enhanced creative material that captures the reader on a whole other level.”
Still, despite all the initial creativity, it’s awfully early. Four issues in Golf Digest are very much in experimentation mode on the iPad. No one’s sure what readers will respond to once the novelty wears off. Plus, print drives the majority of readership and revenue — and will for a long time.
But Bestrom can see that changing eventually. “When I was out at the U.S. Open last week, I had people of all ages come up to me and every one of them said how much they liked our iPad app,” said Bestrom. “They all said, I don’t know why I’d ever pick up the print product again.”