Branson’s ‘Project’ Stirring Murdoch Rivalry?

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson officially rolled out his iPad magazine at a press conference in New York today. And he took a shot at Rupert Murdoch’s forthcoming national newspaper — dubbed The Daily — that’s said to be launching soon on the Apple tablet.
Branson at first denied that Project, the magazine that Virgin created with U.K. publisher Seven Squared, was about a rivalry with Murdoch.
“This is not a battle. This is about the future of publishing,” he said. “But we’ll accept that battle. You’ll agree, ours wins on creativity hands down.” He later added that his contention was based on “30 years of reading [News Corp.’s U.K. tabloid] News of the World.”
Of course, there are significant differences between the two: The Daily is meant to mimic a national daily newspaper, while Project is a monthly style publication centered on design, entertainment, technology and entrepreneurs.
Branson is billing it as a magazine that acts like a Web site, with heavy use of multimedia, interactivity and social media features. (It opens with a video of Jeff Bridges, star of the upcoming movie Tron: Legacy). The pub will publish monthly, but there will be regular updates to encourage users to visit repeatedly.
The editor, Anthony Noguera, past editor of Bauer Media’s men’s lifestyle titles, said the iPad allows for a publication that combines curation, narration and visual storytelling.

“It’s not just a set of PDFs,” said Noguera, who added that he doesn’t want each issue to stay stagnant and become a “museum piece.” Yet he was clear that Project isn’t just a Web site either. “It’s not the Internet.”
Outsider contributions also will be a feature of the magazine. For the second issue, Project is launching a campaign to solicit pitches for the cover.
While Murdoch is believed to be spending $30 million and hiring 100 to launch The Daily, Branson insisted Project was running on a comparative shoestring budget, with a full-time staff of 20.
Other details he revealed at today’s rollout:
* Project will rely on consumer and advertising revenue.
* It will carry a $2.99 cover price.
* Lexus, American Express, Panasonic, Ford U.K., Ford Canada and Kronenbourg 1664 are launch advertisers.
* The publication was designed exclusively for and is available only on the iPad, but over time, could be reworked for other tablets.

—additional reporting by AdweekMedia digital senior editor Mike Shields

Follow Lucia Moses on Twitter @lmoses