Ten Takeaways from Take Me Out to the Ballgame Night
Joe Zeff, who moderated last week's Take Me Out to the Ballgame night at the Helen Mills Theater featuring Sports Illustrated's Christopher Hercik and ESPN's John Korpics, offers these takeaways:
1. Don't take yourself too seriously. As they say in sports, these guys are future Hall of Famers. Hercik and his team at SI practically invented the multimedia magazine, beginning with its forward-thinking You Tube video showing a tablet-based magazine before anyone even knew what a tablet was. Korpics himself has won more medals than most of the people in the room. Combined. (And that's saying a lot considering some of the people in the audience.) Yet the two remain modest and approachable, taking time from their busy schedules to prepare in-depth presentations and share their experiences on a rainy Thursday night in Manhattan. Their work is impressive, their humility even moreso.
2. Be honest about what you don't know. Korpics, newly anointed as Vice President of Soup to Nuts including Digital for The Worldwide Leader In Sports, tells the story of walking into a Digital meeting in which the subject of content management systems came up. He had the temerity to interrupt the conversation and ask, without shame, "So what's a CMS?" Nobody can be expected to know everything. Technology and job descriptions are changing too quickly. It's reality, and nothing to hide from. If there's something you don't know, ask someone who does.
3. Know your competition, and strive to be different. Sports Illustrated is all about classic photography, both past and present; time-relevant coverage, and newsstand presence. ESPN works the margins, pushing offbeat imagery that takes you into the locker room and under the Zamboni; thematic coverage without regard to who won last week's games; and coffeetable cool. Both creative directors know what distinguishes their brands -- and what differentiates them -- and makes that the starting point for new products and experiences.
4. What works in print works elsewhere, too. Korpics showed a Times Square billboard he designed that looked like it came right out of ESPN The Magazine. Hercik displayed a gallery of SI covers on different devices that held true to the brand standard on every platform. Great design is great design; it transcends the medium on which it is delivered. And that translates to great opportunities for print designers everywhere.
5. As powerful as Korpics is, he still can't get his old buddy Joe four tickets to ESPN's Super Bowl party. Or at least that's what he's says. Harumph. Chris?
6. Eat your Wheaties. Hercik commutes daily to New York City from Allentown, managing a 10-person team that's producing eight times as many pages as they did two years ago. Korpics spends two hours each day driving to and from Bristol, overseeing a sprawling system of content producers, figuring out ways to reorganize their content to make it more findable on ESPN websites, and, in his spare time, art directing a national magazine. They make it look easy, but it's excruciatingly hard work that requires enormous personal sacrifice.
7. Work with what you got. SI has video capability in its apps but often lacks video content. For a cover featuring Brad Pitt, they combined outtakes from the cover shoot with a bouncy soundtrack to produce a terrific video cover. Their WoodWing platform provides the ability to show content from the web. Rather than dropping in web pages, Hercik has wired up comment fields and Twitter feeds that blend seamlessly with editorial content to provide a truly dynamic experience. Nice job.
8. Boobies, boobies and more boobies. SI Swimsuit and ESPN The Body Issue are enormous franchises, and Korpics and Hercik are tasked with finding ways to extend that content to as many platforms as possible. Tough job.
9. Be efficient. In order to get it all done, one must leverage production efficiencies. Stylesheets and templates help Sports Illustrated migrate content from print to tablet to mobile to web. ESPN creates logos and type treatments that not only work for print but translate well for television. The lesson: Build it right the first time so it can be repurposed a second, third and fourth time. Good work habits aren't optional; they're mandatory.
10. SPD now has killer ballcaps. Coming soon to a website near you... stay tuned :-)