When long time New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner passed away the other day, leading sports magazine Sports Illustrated has already gone to press for the week with a cover about LeBron James joining the Miami Heat.  Normally this would have meant a week until the magazine could have a story out about his passing … and then it thought of its iPad edition [iTunes link].

sisteinbrennerThe magazine decided to release a second cover to the iPad application featuring a new story that related to Mr. Steinbrenner’s life.  App users can switch back and forth between the original story on the basketball story and the newly updated edition.  As each issue of the magazine costs $4.99 in the app, those users have exclusive access to the story until this weekend, and then it will be released to the Sports Illustrated website and eventually next week’s print edition.

According to MediaMemo, the publication does not plan to make a habit out of this, and that is the right decision to make.  When major stories like this break, though, it has to be done.  As more and more tablets come out on the market, this sort of flexibility and speed will be something that helps draw perspective readers in.  Imagine if some major world event happens like the Berlin Wall coming down, and Time had just gone to print 12 hours before, would you want to wait nearly a week to read their in-depth analysis?

I’m still disturbed by being charged as much for the virtual edition as the print edition, but if this trend continues, and readers can expect speedier coverage, sales and profits could soar for the struggling print media.  It almost makes you wonder if we could continue to call them “print” media anymore.

What say you?  Was this the correct decision on the part of Sports Illustrated?  Should more publications do this sort of thing?