Branson Introduces IPad Magazine `Project,' Taking On Murdoch's `Daily'
The monthly magazine, called “Project,” will cover entertainment, design, technology and entrepreneurs, Branson said today at a press conference in New York. Available now, it costs $2.99 a month in Apple’s app store.
Branson, founder of Virgin Group Ltd., is the first to get a publication designed specifically for the iPad off the ground. Murdoch’s News Corp. is creating a subscription news product for the iPad called “The Daily” that will cover national general interest news, according to two people familiar with the plans. The New York-based company plans to introduce the $1-a-week product in the U.S. in the first quarter, the people said.
“This is not a battle. It’s not a war,” Branson said. “It’s about the future of publishing.”
The product “looks like a style magazine and acts like a website,” according to a statement from Virgin, and has been created with U.K. publisher Seven Squared. The publication is headed by Branson’s 29-year-old daughter, Holly Branson, who is special projects manager at Virgin Group, and editor-in-chief Anthony Noguera, former editor of FHM in the U.K. and Emap East.
“If you’re the first mover in a new area and do it with great panache and style, it does give you an advantage,” Branson said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “InBusiness With Margaret Brennan.” “The future will be on devices like the iPad.”
The first cover features actor Jeff Bridges, who starred in “Crazy Heart” and “The Big Lebowski.” It first appears like a traditional print magazine cover with a photo of Bridges and a column listing the issue’s articles. Then the photo flickers and morphs into video and sound of Bridges standing on the shore with waves in the background and the article’s text running over the picture to one side.
The magazine will have editions available in the U.K., U.S. and Canada with the same content and geographic-specific advertising. Initial advertisers include Ford UK, Lexus, American Express, Panasonic, Ford Canada and Kronenbourg 1664. Ads are interactive with the sounds of a car engine revving and photos of the vehicle that can be turned and manipulated to see different angles.
“Project” marks Virgin’s reemergence into the publishing market. In 1966, when Branson was 16, he set up the magazine Student.
Media companies, like News Corp., are looking to revenue from iPad subscriptions and website pay walls to support their publishing efforts. Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp., said “The Daily” will charge $1 a week and need 800,000 subscribers, according to an interview in the Australian Financial Review earlier this month.
“We are not similar,” editor Noguera said during the press conference. “They’re a daily newspaper. We are effectively a monthly style-and-culture magazine. We wish them nothing but luck.”
Branson added that if the press wants to call it a battle, then it’s one based on quality, and “Project” would prevail over Murdoch’s venture.
Branson said in the interview with Bloomberg Television that it would be “great” if “Project” could draw 50,000 subscribers, or more if it gets a positive reception from users. The magazine may be available on devices beyond the iPad in the future, he said.
“We’re as new to this as anybody else is. We’ll have to see what happens,” Branson said at the press conference. “We’re going to watch the iPad grow and grow with it.”
Branson’s holding company, Virgin Group, has more than 300 branded companies worldwide and employs 50,000 people in 20 countries, according to the Virgin website. Revenue in 2009 totaled 3.8 billion pounds ($5.9 billion). Forbes ranked Branson the 212th richest man in its 2010 survey.
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