A Stud or a Dud? Richard Branson’s ‘Project’ Comes to the iPad

We’ve been hearing for months (that is, months before the iPad was even formally unveiled) that Apple’s tablet would revitalize the publishing industry and usher in a new age of digital readership that will eventually end the printed page as we know it.

Some, today, are once again invoking this argument as industrialist Richard Branson’s Virgin Digital Publishing launched a little something called “Project,” – basically a digital lifestyle magazine optimized for the iPad.

A traditional publication on a not-so-traditional platform is what we have here. The “Project” reader (which is an application now available for free in the App Store) can be be downloaded for free. Each issue, however, will run you $2.99.

The issues will sport a variety of multimedia content, not just virtual pages through which you can flip. “Project” focuses on “international culture, entertainment, design, business and travel.” The first issue, for which the cover-boy is “Tron” star Jeff Bridges, serves up “an interactive 3D tour of Tokyo.”

So far, the pendulum of public opinion is dramatically swinging both ways. Branson, who developed “Project” along with one-time FHM editor Anthony Noguera, has been called a “stud” by many who think his model for iPad magazines will be a thing of the future. Others, however, say Branson’s effort will be a dud because it is simply a dressed up version of other digital publications currently available.

Released today in Apple’s App Store, time will soon tell whether the “stud” or “dud” argument prevails.