Project iPad magazine: Hands-on with Jeff Bridges in Branson's digital rag

Richard Branson's iPad magazine Project has arrived. We've had a virtual riffle through the pages of culture and technology to see if it's any good.

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
3 min read

Richard Branson's iPad magazine Project has arrived. The Virgin Publishing digital mag is available in the iTunes Store now, combining gentlemens' interests like culture and technology with multitouch multimedia and interactive elements.

Project boasts in its tagline that it's "within shouting distance of the cutting edge". Its blog calls it a "bold new chapter in media, and a blind pitch into a potentially humiliating void". We had a virtual riffle through the pages to see which it turns out to be.

You browse by swiping sideways to flip through articles, then up and down to actually read each piece. The cover is a video, flashing the contents alongside cover star Jeff Bridges, currently starring in Tron: Legacy. Hit play below to see the cover flicker into life.

Bridges also strolls into the first page of his interview, followed by another video in which he's messing around in a power station for no apparent reason. Both videos are painfully awkward, showing the potential of the app but just cringe-worthy to watch.

You can almost hear the director telling Jeff to just, y'know, walk around and, er, be wacky, it'll look great. The Dude is clearly a good sport about it all, but is that a flash of exasperation at the end of one video? We can't wait for the Russell Crowe edition, where the video ends with the angry Aussie losing patience and tablet-whipping the nearest multimedia creative with his own iPad.

The interview is broken up with more multimedia elements -- the best bit is to actually hear Bridges' chewy voice in sound clips discussing films from his career, including his favourite lines from The Big Lebowski, his taste for the video game Battlezone during filming of the original Tron, and his reasons for remaking True Grit.

Other cool stuff includes a beautiful twinkling Tokyo skyline to introduce a guide to the city. Pictures include pop-up captions so you can enjoy them free of obnubilation, and external links to read more on each subject.

We're still not sold on the concept of a digital magazine, however. As slick and swooshy as it looks, an interactive magazine is essentially a website saddled with the restrictions of print. There are a number of sidebars and boxes which have clearly been hit with a word count, and that's the sort of shackle online publishing left behind a decade ago. In a bold, thrusting digital future there's really no need for David Peace's guide to Tokyo to be constrained in a single-page box.

Project is also missing a zoom option, and there are a few interactivity dropped balls, including a multiple-choice quiz that doesn't let you tap to give your answers. It's cool-looking and fun to read, but there's plenty of room to improve.

Rupert Murdoch is reportedly ploughing $30m into a digital publication called The Daily. Other iPad periodicals include the Wired UK and BBC Focus apps. To try Project for yourself download the free Project app, then download each edition for £1.79. Maybe it's our Wi-Fi, but the preview issue took aaaaages to download to our iPad.

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