March Madness with ESPN Magazine
"March Madness" took on a whole new meaning for the people involved with the start-up production of ESPN The Magazine, a joint venture of Disney Publishing, ESPN Inc. and The Hearst Corp. After revealing initial launch plans for the biweekly sports magazine last spring, the publishers established starting lineups for the production and editorial teams be-tween May and November (with several players yet to be named at that point), which left about four months to get the premier issue to newsstands and subscribers by the March 11, 1998, deadline.
ESPN's production personnel and partners shot and scored, delivering a 184-page (without paginating ad inserts or covers) behemoth-in-print on the launch date. "The launch went extremely well from a production standpoint," declares Senior Prepress Production Manager Willis Caster. "At worst, we experienced a few slow page transmissions and some minor glitches."
"Considering that we didn't have a full staff until the closing week, that we were training people on the publishing system up until that time and that we didn't have a lot of lead time to close 100 pages—the launch went amazingly smoothly," concurs Managing Editor Lynn Crimando. "Sure, I would have liked to have come on board sooner and had more lead time, but we still completed the magazine on time while also putting out two prototypes between November and the launch."
Both Caster and Crimando credit the magazine's solid technology base and well-thought-out production workflow as contributing to the success of the launch. "One indication that we did a good job setting up the infrastructure was that we were able to kill two stories at the last minute, which allowed us to break the Nykesha Sales story and update the Latrell Sprewell case," Crimando remarks.
The magazine's editorial staff and its production department work out of the same New York City headquarters. All editorial prepress production for the publication is performed on-site in what staff members call the Disney/ESPN imaging studio. The imaging studio also handles the prepress work for four other Disney Publishing (soon to be Buena Vista Publishing) magazine titles: Discover, Family Fun, Disney Adventures and Disney Magazine.