Tuesday, November 30, 2010

'Project' launched: iPad-only magazine from Virgin Digital Publishing is Richard Branson's latest big adventure

It arrived with very little fanfare -- at least compared to the highly hyped daily newspaper from Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Instead, this first venture from Richard Branson's newest venture, Virgin Digital Publishing, named 'Project' is a bit under the radar, as befitting a first effort in tablet publishing.
Project is available in three editions -- UK, US and Canada -- but this is most likely because sales of the $2.99 issues go through the appropriate app stores (or did the issue go three separate spell checkers?).

The app itself is free to download, then readers are offered up the one issue currently available for purchase, though readers can also see a preview of the issue for free.

The new tablet magazine launch is led by editor in chief Anthony Norguera with Project having its own digital and development team. But Seven Publishing Group is listed under "Publishing" leading one to believe that the new entity is working with an outside firm to make this iPad magazine happen. An ad team is also in place, though it appears to be a skeleton crew at this point.

Like a lot of magazines heavy with video content, this is a hefty download. But instead of making the app itself huge, the user here downloads the issues from within the app. For me the process took about two minutes, with a slower connection it might take longer. But once installed, this tablet publication offers complete portrait and landscape versions -- they are identical, but the fact that you can read this in either orientation mandates a large sized download.

The 'cover' itself is a video (again, in both portrait and landscape -- last time I'll repeat that, promise). You can see that video at right in the TNM video channel window. This theme is repeated elsewhere in the magazine. For instance, the Jeff Bridges feature again starts with a video of Bridges walking on a beach, presumably in Santa Barbara.
There is no way to access the content quality here having just installed the app -- and that isn't the domaine of TNM anyways -- but the app is very impressive at first blush. Can they produce this every month, every four months? We'll see.

For other publishers, this app is pretty intimidating. The video and animation involved here can only be duplicated by a dedicated tablet publishing team -- and I might add, a magazine like this can only exist on a tablet.

I should mention the Lexus ad here. While all the features have embedded video, for some reason the Lexus ad uses YouTube for its content. It works, I suppose, and it mercifully makes the issue a little less hefty.

Again, like some of the better apps, the ad is viewable in both portrait and landscape. This ability to get two sets of creative will no doubt be a challenge with selling last minute ads for tablets with dual orientations. Interactive agencies will have to get used to this, and if I were selling ads for a tablet publication I would be eager to target clients and agencies that already understand this.

So far the reaction to the magazine within the iTunes App Store has been very positive -- actually extremely positive. The only criticism in the US store so far has to do with the download times. While the most negative review in the UK store is "why would I prefer this to print?", which is pretty funny when you consider the huge amount of video and animation in this app.

Perhaps the gentleman works for paidContent?