iPad magazine Project is free this month, but is it still a waste of money?

The latest issue of Project, Richard Branson's men's mag for the iPad, is free. American Express is footing the bill with advertising, hoping you never leave home without it.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
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The latest issue of iPad men's mag Project is free, pointing the way for publications targeted at the Apple iPad and iPad 2. American Express is footing the bill with advertising for Richard Branson's lifestyle rag, hoping you never leave home without it -- but are iPad magazines actually worth getting excited about?

The free issue features Aussie actor Eric Bana, and probably some other stuff, but we haven't read it yet because it's been downloading for an hour.

Project launched in November last year with a slightly awkward combination of multimedia elements, including photography, video, and audio clips. It initially cost £1.79.

Daily deal

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp has also launched an iPad publication, the big-money newspaper The Daily. The Daily will be available in the UK by summer, although it seems it will just be the US version rather than a version full of British news. The Daily is free to tempt readers, but will shortly start charging 60p per week.

We like the sound of advertising deals, as opposed to us paying for each issue. Not only do we get the mag for free, there's an incentive for publishers to look for such deals as it means they don't have to fork over 30 per cent of their monies to Apple in iTunes subscription fees.

Other similar deals include the FT and International Herald Tribune apps being sponsored by Hublot and Cartier -- like American Express, premium brands looking to target suave, sophisticated iPad owners.

iPad magazines: what are they good for?

Still -- and maybe we're biased -- we're not sold on the concept of magazines designed for tablets. They're great for publishers but offer nothing you couldn't get from a website like this one 'ere -- not only do we have all the digital elements like video and photography, we update constantly, so you're never left behind by the news.

The thing about printed magazines is that each issue is a little walled garden: you buy your copy of GQ, Heat, Kerrang!, New Scientist or Official Meeting Facilities Guide and you're confined to that one magazine. All the adverts -- which really fund the publication, not your cover price -- pass in front of your eyes, even if you're only flipping past them.

But with the Web, it's like every magazine in the shop has been laid out in front of you -- for free -- and you can leap between them with gay abandon, leaving publishers with no guarantee that you'll see the adverts that pay their wages. iPad magazines are an attempt to impose the old model, confining you to one publication, on the digital age. We can't help seeing it as a blind alley.

Still, the photos look nice, and free is free. Are you won over by iPad magazines? What do you read on your tablet? Tell us your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook wall.