Two giants in media plan out the future for digital journalism-but is it good?

By Elliott H Wallace

The explosion of the new media market, including smart phones, tablets, laptops, pretty much any little “thingy” you use to communicate, has changed the way we find and receive information.  Now, billionaires Richard Branson of the Virgin Company and Rupert Murdoch of News Corporation are launching dueling news publications on the growing and popular  thingy, the Apple iPad.

The Project

Richard Bronson has introduced his sleek and stylish iPad only magazine, titled Project. While I don’t have an iPad (just a bunch of iPods glued to a lunch tray), but from the videos I have seen of the opening page looks incredibly impressive, with Jeff Bridges trapped in the last stages of Tron.

Melissa Bell of the Washington Post did a review of the magazine, saying the magazine  “feels like any offering from GQ/Esquire/Wired dolled up with fabulous sound and image offerings inherent to the iPad.” Melissa also pointed the overall quality of the magazine was top-notch.  Conversely, technology blogger for Bill Barol has a few problems with the magazine, specifically how “It all feels sort of flashy and desperate, as if Branson was looking to strike quickly and (let me be charitable) was not geared up for the long haul.”

The Daily

Rupert Murdoch has partnered with Apple CEO Steve Jobs to create an iPad only (no print or online edition)news paper, which will coat 0.99 per issue. Staffed with 100 writers, the Daily is looking to not only have written word, but video content and fully using the iPad’s technology, according to Mashable.

At the time of this article are no pretty pictures, but the Mashable piece argues that this format might be very successful, especially if they can really pull of the video content and digital immersion. The article praises Rupert for his advancements in digital journalism at a time when other news organizations are still looking for ways to save print.  Peter Preston of the Guardian is a little cynical of the project, saying their model “is the MySpace blunderbuss technique all over again: too many resources, too little really innovative thinking.”

Will this work?

The real question is how well will these two ventures work? Getting away from profit margins, is the iPad really the place for new forms of journalism? I will say on the design level, for the Project, it is really amazing. But the issue will be content. Project will have to really go beyond a digital GQ to really offer something on the iPad. It might have to do more with who Branson is, or rather what Virgin’s image is that would affect the magazine.

Murdoch is on a better path, but his success boils down to how much people are willing to focus on receiving their news from their tablets instead of their smartphones and laptops.

Of course, it will be interesting to see if they can use not only interactive services, but also social networking, but that would really take a year, at least to really grow into that.

The Apple iPad has sold just over 3 million units and expected to grow to at least 50 million units in the next year.  One guarantee is that both apps will have eyes on them.  The real issue is holding those eyes.