AMITIAE - Wednesday 14 December 2011

UK's Motor Sport Magazine now Available as an iPad app

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Motor Sport

During the late 1960s and the 1970s one of my must-reads every month was Motor Sport, edited then by William Boddy (WB) who only recently passed away, with major contributions by Denis Jenkinson (DSJ) who was also the co-driver to Stirling Moss (and created the rolling map as a navigation tool) when he won the Mille Miglia in 1955.

In some ways, Motor Sport was instrumental in my joining the police -- which they constantly criticised -- when the review of the new Jaguar XJ6 mentioned the only people who would be able to drive it: rich people and the police.

After leaving the UK, I hardly ever read Motor Sport except when I picked a copy up at an airport on my way home, or a visitor brought one out to me. It retained a solid but eclectic editorial approach to all manner of things connected with motoring and not simply the sport itself.

While it does seem to be a somewhat English-flavoured publication and has a European focus (especially with the Grand Prix season), it does not ignore US motorsport, nor events in Asia.

I wrote to the editor some months ago over something I had read and wondered in my email about an iPad edition. All things are under consideration, I was told, but. . . .

Opening Comments

That "but" must have been a wait and see. Motor Sport has joined the ranks of publications available on the app store. Like many apps from the publishing industry this is free, but the content will be by subscription. The information in the iTunes store page for the app tells us that it "will be free to all our print subscribers in the future".

Motor Sport It adds that it will not only include the same content as the magazine, but extra photographs and slideshows. There is also mention of videos to enhance features, and links to audio podcasts which Motorsport already produce, and the website.

We are also told that users will be able buy single digital editions from iTunes. It is not clear at this stage if this is to be an in-app purchase, although this seems most likely.

The app opens with the familiar -- traditional -- green heading with the publication name in bold type. The interface is like Apple's Newsstand, but in white. Thus far a single issue (for September) is available. This is provided as a free sample so we can judge what we may expect.

As the thumbnail is tapped, it appears full size on the iPad, looking a little more garish than I remember with its red content flash all down one side. Progress I suppose, I initially thought, but when the full edition was finally downloaded at a snail's pace, the cover appears full screen and I saw a large X (bottom left) that clears this, leaving the cover and its picture fully displayed: a Jaguar E-type (XK-E) and a Ferrari 250SWB.

At the bottom of that initial screen are 4 icons. It is useful to know that the first one, Download, needs to be pressed before content will be delivered to the iPad. Alongside, the other icons are Delete Video, Delete Issue and Download Video. These tool icons disappear once the download is complete but may appear again when necessary.

Motor Sport Magazine

The single available issue itself was reported at a mite under 120MB and took quite a while to download: far longer than I am used to, so wonder if this may be due to the servers being in the UK: the other side of the world. If that is the case, it is less likely to affect those in Europe or the US.

Like other magazine apps, we scroll to the right (or left) to navigate between sections (or features) and then up or down within a feature. Two contents pages after the cover allow instant access to any specific article, although there is no quick Back button. At the bottom of the screen is a navigation strip, displaying thumbnails of the features: we slide to left or right and tap the section wanted. I saw that this indicated 7 sections that were missing. When I returned to the Library -- the shelves -- and pressed the download icon, I was offered a choice between downloading everything again or just what was missing.

It was apt that the September issue was provided free as it had a tribute to Bill Boddy who had set the scene -- and set the standard of the magazine -- for so many years.

What was not available in the iPad version was the section containing Classified Advertisements. I remembered that this had contained a wealth of information and I had read through this every issue -- where else could one buy a Brabham BT38 or the radiator grille of a Triumph Gloria? It appears that The Market is available in the online version (or in print), but does not seem to be as encyclopedic as in the past.

Motor Sport Motor Sport


The pages of the Contents section were split into Features and Favourites: 10 in the first and 16 in the second. What always struck me about the reports in Motor Sport was the careful attention to detail along with a layering of facts, in a similar way to how the long reports in the New Yorker Magazine also provide a reader with a multi-faceted text. I was not disappointed here: for example, along with a report on Silverstone, was an interview with Jose Froilan Gonzalez who had won his and Ferrari's first Grand Prix there some 60 years earlier. I also noticed that, as ever, there were plenty of barbs for establishment figures (in this case Bernie Ecclestone).

While one foot is firmly planted in the present (with an eye to the future), there is a good balance of content on older cars, such as the cover featured Jaguar and Ferrari comparison and a look at a Mercedes-Benz W165 as well as a couple of items on motorcycles too including a look at the legendary Isle of Man TT Races. The issue also included the last two articles by WB.

Each section has a good selection of photographs, most of which can be enlarged -- many to full screen. Occasionally when a picture was displayed, scrolling to the side revealed other related photographs. While there are icons that indicate video can be downloaded or streamed, I was able to find none in the free issue. Perhaps this will be available with the purchased downloads.

Scrolling between sections, I occasionally came across advertisements, usually for high quality products, such as leather touring cases, or vintage car restorers. This in itself is part of the uniqueness -- the idiosyncratic nature -- of Motor Sport.


Having seen the way in which some magazines, especially the New Yorker, were able to use the medium of the iPad to good effect, I was convinced months ago that Motor Sport would make the transition as well. I believe I was right and the good balance of content, images and even advertisements, make good use of the display medium of the iPad.

While there are one or two rough edges, particularly concerning downloads where I am -- speed and missing content -- I am slightly disappointed that the Classifieds section is missing. I do not think the changed Market Place (only online) suffices. I wondered if this were because of a difficulty in placing such small ads online, but see that the UK Exchange and Mart has made a complete transition from print to online format.

Apart from these minor niggles, Motor Sport on the iPad is just what I expected. While the luxury of turning the glossy pages has given way to scrolling on a touch screen, being able to buy the magazine without a delivery delay is something I have not been able to do for years. I also look forward to video and sound content: something a paper version could never deliver.

Motor Sport Motor Sport



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