Blog Post

‘Pernicious Gremlins’ Delayed Issue #2 Of Virgin’s iPad-Only Mag, Now Out

I was literally in the middle of writing about Project‘s delayed second issue when I had to reload the page and it was for sale. Oddly, the Jan. 9 post about the delay was gone (thank you, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) cache), replaced completely by an earlier post about the new issue of the iPad-only magazine from Sir Richard Branson and company. The reason for the delay six weeks after the first issue debuted:

“particularly pernicious gremlins have briefly postponed the release of Project issue 2. Think of it as ‘difficult second album” syndrome, but with more XML programming.”

On the plus side, without printing or physical distribution, delaying the publication of a new digital-only issue has far fewer repercussions than missing the traditional newsstand date. This is also one place where not having a subscription yet helps: some people looking for the second issue may not come back but they haven’t paid for it yet. The cost sans subscription: $2.99 an issue.

Project has had more than its share of gremlins in its brief life. The first issue made the same mistake as Wired with its first iPad edition and came out of the gate too hefty to download easily for many. They trimmed the file size of the first issue by 33 percent, made some other tech tweaks and put it back up for free so people could trial it before the next one. They applied the same effort to the second issue. It took 8 minutes to download and install the 320MB file using WiFi, compared with 14 minutes last time. That puts the buying process at about 10 minutes if you know what you’re doing and already have the app installed. It’s also been adjust to work with the earlier version of iOS for iPad.

To be fair, the Project team — a staff from Virgin Digital with agency Seven Squared — is also trying to do more with the iPad than many other publishers and publish a completely new editorial venture. It’s an ambitious endeavor with a strong visual impact and an edge that’s sure to get more sharply honed if the mag is given the time to make its case.

Would I have spent the $3 this time if it weren’t my job? Probably not. I’m not the target audience of youngish, affluent males. And if I were, how many times would I pay the single-issue price? Hard to say. As this rate or slightly lower, it’s a rational price for a good monthly read. But Project is much more likely to succeed if it can solve recurring payments and expand to more devices in a cost-efficient way.

The first issue had Jeff Bridges on the moving cover; this month’s cover is adventurer Bear Grylls, ex-Special Forces turned TV host and author, perched on a roof ledge with the Manhattan skyline. The photo leading into the article is a striking image of Grylls unsinged in the midst of flames. He’ll survive. Will Project?