Richard Branson's first successful business venture was a magazine called Student, and it seems the polymath billionaire is returning to his roots: Virgin is planning to launch a new digital magazine, titled Maverick, under the leadership of his 28-year-old daughter Holly.
The new magazine, positioned to take advantage of the wave of interest in the new generation of e-readers, will be available as an app for the iPad, iPhone, and other digital platforms, per Ad Age.
Focusing on the creative side of business, technology, travel and design, Maverick will target a well-heeled, international audience. Most telling, it is not intended to be a platform for promoting other parts of the Virgin empire; the future of the project -- a joint venture with publishers Seven Squared, with creative input from consultancy AI -- depends on the younger Branson's ability to recruit premium advertisers.
If all goes well, a tentative launch is scheduled for sometime in October. As a digital-only publication, Maverick would enjoy a competitive advantage over apps from print publishers, which sometimes feel obliged to maintain price parity with their legacy print products.
Ad Age quoted an executive close to the project as saying: "More than 8 million people will own iPads by the end of the year. It's the fastest-selling gadget ever, and it's the most exciting thing to happen to the magazine market in a long time -- but no one has yet got it right."
The proliferation of e-readers -- beginning with Amazon's Kindle and now kicking into high gear with the debut of the epochal iPad -- has triggered a frenzy of activity among major magazine publishers, with Time Inc., Conde Nast, Hearst, Meredith, Bonnier and Hachette Filipacchi rushing to introduce apps for their flagship titles.
The boom also stands to benefit companies like Zinio, which specialize in creating and distributing digital editions of magazines.
Still, magazine publishers find themselves confronting a few basic economic issues amid the digital stampede. True, the new digital platforms allow them to offer a variety of engaging multimedia features -- but financial pressures have forced many publishers to charge iPad app prices equal to (or in some cases, even higher) than the print newsstand price of the same magazine.