Before the hype that was The Daily, we heard a lot about Richard Branson’s Project Magazine app, the first iPad-only monthly magazine. Now, after six issues, Project has been completely rebuilt for Issue #7.
Was the update worth it? That depends.
Sometimes it’s difficult to think of a world before the iPad debuted in April 2010. Equally difficult is to remember a time when the number of interactive publications available for the iPad could be counted on a few hands. Still, that time wasn’t that long ago.
When Project debuted in November 2010, it was a completely new concept. Sure publications like Wired Magazine had done a so-so job of bringing magazines to the iPad.
Yet, for the most part, these were print magazines with a few special features thrown in for iPad owners. Regrettably, these effects were seldom used and when they were, they often took away from the article.
With Project, iPad owners received a completely new magazine built specifically for Apple’s new tablet device. The end result was a publication with a variety of stories surrounded by effects specifically in place to enhance, rather thank take away from, a user’s reading experience.
Beginning with Issue #7 (available now as an in-app purchase), Project retains its often-used effects. However, what was once a brilliant (and revolutionary) publication has gone conventional at least from a creative standpoint.
Most significantly, landscape viewing is gone. In its place are portrait pages accessible through the occasional swipe from left to right, with additional content available through downward swipes.
On this point, the start of each article feels like you’re on street level and need to dig deeper (and deeper) just to get to the bottom. While simple to do, this downward movement gets too repetitive and a little bit too annoying.
In addition, each article is now relegated to one of three main categories. These include: Game Changer, Features, and Work/Life.
We can only imagine the meeting where the Project team was forced to come up with these category names.
Most likely, it was the creative team that demanded only three categories were allowed since that is all the publication could handle via its spanking new portrait-only design.
The end result is three categories that mean absolutely nothing.
For example, why does a piece on David Schwimmer (of Friends fame) warrant inclusion in the Game Changer category, while a piece on The Daily Show’s Kristen Schaal is considered a feature?
Could it be because Schaal’s piece includes a fantastic video introduction while Schwimmer’s only includes a still photo? We have no clue.
It should be noted articles were once either Features/Game Changers or part of the lesser Work/Life category.
Either way, the categories don’t work since they tell us nothing about what type of articles are available under each.
Finally, after seven issues there is still no way to purchase a Project subscription. Hopefully this will be corrected soon.
And yet, Project’s 2.0 update isn’t all-bad. For one, it is definitely quicker to navigate than previous versions. Plus, going from page to page (even if done through a lot of up and down motions) seems quicker too.
Plus, Project looks like it killed its annoying Forum feature, which wasn’t used by a lot of people and was annoyingly slow to exit. This decision alone scores the Project team many kudos!
For new users, Project is now probably an easier viewing experience than was the case with Issues 1-6. However, existing users might have a hard time getting used to it.
Maybe that’s the point. Since we haven’t come across any “Project App Gains More Eyeballs” stories, perhaps the redress is necessary for the mag’s long-term survival.
The Project app is available for free in the App Store. Individual issues are available as in-app purchases and priced at $2.99. Each is available in US, UK, and Canadian editions.
What do you think of the Project Magazine update? Let us know by using the comments below.