Virgin releases iPad-only magazine, Project

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At a New York City press conference on Tuesday, Virgin CEO Richard Branson and his editorial team from customer engagement agency Seven Squared showed off Virgin’s new digital publication for iPad, Project.

Branson bills the publication as the “first truly digital magazine for creative people, by creative people.” Its editorial sections will focus on technology, entrepreneurs, design, and entertainment, and will profile influential people in these fields. Branson noted that the focus of the magazine will be on people who are important to their fields, rather than on celebrities and big name stars. Though, with Jeff Bridges adorning the first issue’s cover, it’s clear they’ve made room for marquee names as well.

Project’s editor in chief, Anthony Noguera, said he believes the iPad is “the most exciting thing to happen in generations” for media;  he describes Project as “an agenda-setting magazine that spotlights the people who are changing the world in large and small ways.”

During the press conference, Noguera gave a live demonstration of the app. The “cover” of the magazine closely resembles a print magazine, but from that point on, the differences quickly become apparent. The publication takes full advantage of the iPad’s gesture-based controls, and was clearly designed to maximize reader interaction. You can take a virtual tour through Tokyo, led by five prominent city residents; you can view high-resolution photos of the new Jaguar concept car—and even listen to the sound of its engine purring; touch a picture of Jeff Bridges, and watch him come to life. This is what the future of print media should look like.

Project will also make heavy use of crowdsourcing and user-generated content for its stories—a contest to develop next month’s cover design is already underway.

By completely abandoning print media in favor of a digital medium, Project will be free of the constraints of typical magazines—an advantage Branson clearly plans to build on. All content can be custom-tailored to capitalize on the iPad’s interactive abilities. Even the advertisements will be designed to be as engaging as possible—something entrepreneur Branson is especially excited about.

The Project app is free, but each month’s issue will cost $3 as an in-app purchase. Unlike traditional magazines, however, the content of each issue will evolve throughout the month, with updates made on a regular basis. The first issue, featuring Tron: Legacy actor Jeff Bridges, is available now.

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