Branson's iPad-Only Magazine Leaps Ahead Of Its Rivals

December 3, 2010

Turns out all the banter about tablet devices and the future of publishing wasn’t just conjecture. Finally, we’ve got something promising.

Project, the iPad-only magazine backed by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, hit the iTunes app store on Tuesday. Described as a “revolutionary multimedia magazine, ” Project includes lush video and images paired with audio and interactive content to create a media-rich experience.

Of course, we’ve already seen plenty of traditional magazines come to the iPad, but most of these are essentially PDF replicates of their hard-copy editions. Project isn’t the first iPad-only magazine as Branson claims, but it is dazzling. Here’s the requisite video demo:

Later this month, Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily will debut as the first iPad-only newspaper. Murdoch brings decades of successful newspaper experience to the iPad platform, but early reports indicate The Daily will be free of weblinks and live udpates. In other words, like the rolled-up fish wrap on your porch, what you download every morning is what you get for the whole day.

Kit Eaton recently questioned Murdoch’s approach on Fast Company: “The actual plan to revolutionize the industry is to take the business model of a traditional printed newspaper, with no weblinks and essentially “dead” words on the page, and replace the paper with pixels? Because that’s what a walled-off, iPad-only newspaper app would mean.”

I’m a perfect target for Branson’s Project. I started reading the newspaper every morning when I was 8 years old and kept the habit until I shipped off to college, where my laptop became my morning news source. Now, I rely most heavily on Twitter and RSS feeds. I’ve owned an iPad for about three months, but I’ve gone days and even weeks without using it. Project is the first app to really excite me, especially as a news source.

For now, tablet devices can be replied upon for surfing the Internet and consuming media. Project is the app to create an experience that feels exclusive to the tablet – I wouldn’t enjoy it as much as a hard-copy magazine or a website.  

Maybe it’s unfair to compare Project and The Daily. One is a magazine and the other is a newspaper, after all. But Project is the iPad dream realized while The Daily, as it’s described, seems to lack versatility and imagination.

Of his perceived rivalry with Murdoch to become the iPad’s publishing pioneer, Branson said, “This is not a battle. This is not a war. This is the future of publishing.”

It’s also a changing of the guard, where publishers must be creative visionaries, not just businessmen. Once again, the publishing world should be inspired.