Media industry chroniclers this past week seemed to be gearing up for a digital publishing showdown between moguls Richard Branson and Rupert Murdoch, who both are currently developing iPad periodicals -- called Project and The Daily, respectively.
But during a splashy news conference at Manhattan's Crosby Street Hotel on Tuesday morning, Branson threw water on the speculation that he and Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp., will be doing battle.
"This is not a battle, it's not a war, it's the future of publishing," said Branson, who is a major shareholder in Virgin. "It's about giving the millions of iPad users around the world something truly groundbreaking. But if people want to call it a battle, we'll accept that as a battle of quality, and we think you'll agree that our team wins hands down."
Pressed on the latter point during a Q&A session, Branson added: "Based on 30 years of reading [the Murdoch-owned British tabloid] News of the World, I think our quality -- well anyway, we'll be willing to be judged."
Project editor-in-chief Anthony Noguera chimed in: "It's a weird conflation of ideas, this Branson vs. Murdoch news. We are not similar. They're a daily newspaper; we are a monthly style and culture magazine. Apart from the fact that we're on same piece of hardware, that's it. Creatively there's no battle at all. We wish them nothing but luck."
Project, which at the moment is available only on the iPad but is to be adapted for use on other tablet devices, hit the iTunes store Tuesday morning. The debut issue features a video-based "cover" promoting a package on actor Jeff Bridges. The publication, whose main coverage areas are tech, entrepreneurship, entertainment and design, is produced in conjunction with Virgin by a staff of around 20.
The Daily, on the other hand, is slated for launch in the first quarter of 2011 and has been described as a sophisticated digital periodical with a newsroom of about 100.
A third tablet-based publication, Nomad Editions, founded by former Newsweek President Mark Edmiston, launched last week.