I’ve been very intrigued with the launch of Richard Branson’s digital magazine Project. As part of that intrigue I have taken a closer look at the iPad version of Project and have begun to deconstruct the framework, content and potential of this digital-only monthly magazine.
In part one I took a closer look at the introduction of the magazine and it’s dynamic cover, today lets take a look at the editorial content of this month’s issue.
Dude, Seriously with Jeff Bridges
It’s no surprise that the feature story this month is on actor Jeff Bridges if you read part one of my deconstruction series. The article, “Dude, Seriously” only confirms that Bridges is in fact 95% “dude” in real life and has a very laid back personality. The interview with Bridges shows his disassociation with Hollywood, talks about his reboot of Tron and his life since winning the Oscar for his performance in Crazy Heart.
While enjoying the interview by Christopher Tennant I was initially disappointed because I could not find the actual author of the story. The credits are shown only temporarily during the dynamic lead-in.
And speaking of the dynamic lead-in to the story, much like the cover for Project, I was disappointed with it. By my calculations it takes nearly 15 seconds to load the initial copy for the article. While it was amusing to see Jeff Bridges walk through the surf and through the lead-in for the story, it is annoying with each subsequent load of the story.
One could argue that there isn’t a need to reread the story but I tend to go back to articles I enjoy. But the main point here is that for myself, I didn’t know I should expect copy with the dynamic lead-in. The 15 second wait was too long and my short attention span had me moving on to the next page before realizing I missed the introduction.
In part one of my deconstruction I mention that Project provides the reader with a tutorial on using the additional features found in the magazine. One of those features appears to be comments attached to specific stories and served through Project’s forum. It doesn’t appear that the forum is exposed on Project’s website, but it may be in the future.
Held within Project’s “spine” there is a register mark that takes you to the forum. Once clicking on the element there is a nice Apple like transistion as the page rotates to reveal the discussion forum which Project has called “Sound Bytes.”
Unfortunately while checking for comments I couldn’t find a single response on any of the articles. And as I tried to add my own comment I received a message that I was adding comments too frequently, as if I was spamming the forum. After trying twice to add a comment it never appeared within the magazine, very disappointing that this functionality was not working for me.
I hope Project fixes this in the future as the potential for user-generated content within the digital magazine would differentiate it from most other monthly magazines.
It’s not clear that Project or any other digital magazine will ever offer real-time updates to their content. In the December issue of Wired there is an article No Free “Free Ride” there is a reference to AC/DC and the Beatles not being on iTunes. However we know that The Beatles catalog was just released on iTunes for the first time on November 16.
This presents an interesting opportunity for publishers to edit a story or article with updated information. While traditional publications can be seen as a historical document the moment they are published, websites and digital magazines have the opportunity to more frequently update their product.
An additional opportunity for real-time content would be to drive the most popular articles to the cover of the magazine, another sorting option for the table of contents, or streaming in social media content into the magazine. The forum is a start for Project, but it only can be scored as incomplete without seeing it in action.
Project attempts to stream in their blog as a main content section of the magazine, but the implementation needs improvement. The navigation isn’t immediately noticeable and it’s not easy to view older posts. A Flipboard like implementation within the magazine for the blog may be a better experience.
The main annoyance I had with Project was that I could not immediately tell what content categories exist within the monthly magazine. From the blog it appears culture, tech, design, fashion, and science are main categories. After reading the debut of Project it also appears that business and politics will be main content categories.
Within the table of contents and features there isn’t any way to discern between the content categories. However it appears there may be some color coding happening here, but I could not ascertain if there was any meaning behind it. The colors did not match up against the colors assigned within the blog.
I feel these small visual clues should be easier to discern or be called out to avoid confusion.
The addition of rich media throughout the magazine is wonderful. Project’s creative team has tried to enrich the user experience with video, sound clips and photo galleries.
Looking at the single photos of Jeff Bridges there is a small plus sign that shows additional information about what he is wearing in each photo. Unfortunately touching the icon provides little additional value. This was an opportunity for Project to link to the products, perhaps in the future.
One of the more interesting rich media experiences within the Bridges’ article is the sample of his cinema history that allows you to touch a photo to hear a sound clip. I would have preferred to have scrubbing controls with the audio clips but this is a great example of an informational graphic you would see in the likes of GQ or Esquire brought to life by Project.
Within this article there are two pages dedicated to Bridges’ reboot of Tron. The micro-feature “Remaking the Future” explains the strength of the Tron legacy as well as the work that went into the digital work to replace Bridges’ face with a younger photo-realistic version of himself.
For all the criticism I have shared about Project I want to be clear that I have truly enjoyed the magazine. Branson’s magazine represents the future of publishing. The quality is top notch, the designers have tried to infuse the magazine with unique rich media and will likely continue to test the boundaries of the platform.