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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Sports Illustrated: Sports in India!!

People think that India is the most sports crazy country, but I think in that case the word ‘sports’ needs to be redefined for India. Truth is that nobody bothers for ‘sports’ in India, neither the audience nor the sponsors and the organizers… if it is not Cricket! Not even media! Even the cricket fever remains on our mind till the match is on. And for the (momentary) fans of cricket there are better mediums to get the real-time updates like internet, Mobile and TV. As it is we Indian cricket fans, don’t need any expert’s analysis when the match is over. In fact each one of us is quite capable of criticizing any cricket match, shot-by-shot or even ball-by-ball …don’t we do so? Then why the media should talk about other games not the cricket, if talking about cricket only can hook their readers/ viewers/ listeners (so the advertisers).

Cover of the launch issue of Indian edition of ‘Sports Illustrated’ magazine also approves that for us Indians- sports means cricket, that’s it. American magazine Sports Illustrated is launched this October in India by Time Inc and Dennis Media TransAsia (also publisher of Indian editions of Maxim, Blender, Travel+Leisure, Better Homes & Gardens, Casaviva, Child etc.) as a monthly magazine that is priced at Rs.100. International edition of SI is regarded for its in-depth sports analysis, experts’ columns and of course for its great photography. It seems that desi version of SI is targeting cricket lovers (mainly) and those, who are real fans of international edition of ‘Sports Illustrated’; they have to compromise with this localized edition only. They should not expect the range (ratio) of sports in Indian edition as much as they find in American edition, especially those eye-grabbing covers.

As I have mentioned earlier that cricket is going to rule the overall content, cover story is also about finding out “India’s Greatest Cricketer”. An issue which is never debated (at least seriously) was raised first, and then 30 experts are roped in to settle down the argument. I cannot imagine that any cricket fan (not the fan of cricket stars) has thought of finding ‘Cricketer No.1’ of Indian cricket history…! And SI India has given nothing but just a list of twenty greatest Indian cricketers that is not going to affect any reader’s life or the future of Indian cricket. Anyway, we have a list now!

Front section of the magazine is interesting. Leading off, Scorecard (along with subsections like Life On and Off…, Grill, Go Figure, World of Sport and Mixed Media) are really informative and presented in very interesting way. Back pages of the magazine don’t interest too much. Rest of the part of the magazine i.e. main chunk of the magazine doest have any editorial structure at all. There are various write ups, features, and columns on various sports (like football, tennis, Boxing, F1 etc.) but there is not visible structure of putting articles on these pages. They appear as if they are put there without any order; and that clearly shows the lack of structure in the magazine.

Though, SI international is known for its writing and the photography as well, I don’t find it even up to the mark. Photographs used even in the lead shots of the articles are very poor (accept the FOB pages). Similarly, inconsistency in the thought process of making the cover story of launch is quite apparent. Cover lines (along with the cover photograph) misleads that issue is going to settle the debate of ‘who is the (single) greatest cricketer amongst three- Sunil, Kapil and Sachin.’ Inside pages have different headline that says something else all together that it is a list of top 20 greatest cricketers of all time!

Poor designing & inconsistent layouts make me hard to believe that SI India is also a baby of publishers of Maxim & T+L SA which are remarkably good in design. Substandard visualization and even worsen its execution is apparent right from the cover itself.

Though SI is also reputed for its great photography, but for the concept cover (like launch issue of SI India) it could have been better. Gold metallic color is used as background color to make it stand out that is fine but the cut-outs of three players are so childish that it looks like a page of a scrap book made be a young cricket fan using scissor-cut photographs.

Cover is carrying too many elements those are put there on the cover without any navigation guide. Neither the typography nor the color and weight of texts help reader to follow the cover stories. Typography is done so badly that it makes difficult to read the cover stories at a glance on the newsstand. Other stories are even badly presented using unnecessary typo and inconsistent & illogical leading between them. Overall cover is looking too clutter with no guides for browsing.

Inside pages also have lots of inconsistencies in basic grids, usages of typefaces, designing and using various design elements.

Poor prepress and substandard imaging can ruin even if you use good photographs in your magazine. In some pages where photographs are up to the mark, poor photo editing has ruined all the quality. And some pages are carrying even poor photograph. For example, the lead shot of Bhiachung Bhutia in the very first article of the launch issue is so grainy and edited so badly that it leaves very bad first impression on reader’s mind. I have to mention that most of the photographs are looking good in the magazine are from Getty Images.

Printing quality of a magazine largely gets affected by the prepress quality and that is why printing also is not very impressive here.

In spite of the fact that India is a sports crazy country (fine, for the cricket only) Sports Illustrated is still going to remain special interest magazine only, not the general interest. For that kind of TG, a monthly product for Rs.100 is perfectly fine. Paper quality and the look & feel of around 126 pages magazine it shows that much of worth.

Cricket seems to remain on top of the content planning for SI India for no doubt, but publishers of this Magazine should keep in the mind the destiny of previously launched other cricket magazines in India and the pitiable condition of currently running other sports magazines. And top of that they need to match their (SI International) readers’ high expectations from its Indian Edition.
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