Sir Richard Branson is available now on your iPad.
Branson's new "baby," a "living magazine" designed exclusively for the popular Apple tablet — called "Project" — launched Monday night and was formally introduced by the British billionaire at a press conference in a boutique hotel in downtown New York on Tuesday.
And while Branson dismissed the notion that Project will compete with Rupert Murdoch's forthcoming iPad newspaper, "The Daily," Branson threw a few grenades Rupe's way.
"I've read that we are in a battle with a certain newspaperman," he said. "It's not a battle, it's not a war — it's about the future of publishing."
But, he added, "We'll accept that battle is a battle on quality, and when you see our competition you'll agree ours will win on quality hands-down."
With a slightly vague focus ("design/entertainment/technology/entrepreneurs") each issue will cost $2.99, and Branson intends to have its content updated "daily, hourly, minute-by-minute," leaning heavily on user's contributions. "We want to have thousands of contributors," he said.
Project is being led by Branson's daughter, Holly, and former FHM U.K. editor-in-chief Anthony Noguera, who showed off first issue's bells and whistles along with Branson at the press conference.
Branson enlisted Jeff Bridges to be the first cover subject of Project. He appears on the cover in a video loop (see below), and stars in a short few videos embedded within the magazine's cover feature. (Branson said Bridges spent five hours with Project's editors for the interview, video and photoshoot — when it comes to tablet magazines, it appears The Dude abides.)
Branson would not disclose what he's spending on the launch — joking that "Virgin is cheap." But he said staff size is roughly 20 — much smaller than Murdoch's reported team of 100 working on "The Daily."
Noguera admitted that the cost to produce some of the flashy features was not exactly cheap. "Producing the editorial (for the iPad) is far more expensive than normal editorial" at a print magazine," he said. "These are expensive products to make."
Branson said the company plans to rely on "word of mouth from bloggers" to market the magazine. "If they don't like it, we're dead in the water," he said, adding: "We don't have Rupert Murdoch's advertising budget, that's for sure." (This passive-aggression will not stand, man.)
While Project’s design is iPad-specific, versions for mobile devices, including Google’s Android, are planned. "At some point, our friends at Apple will understand," Branson said. (Steve Jobs is not an investor in Project, said Branson, who referred to Apple as an "informal partner.")
Branson also refused to disclose Project's projected circulation. "I'm as new to this as anybody," he said, sounding a little out of his element. "We'll have to see as we go."