Virgin Plans New Magazine as IPad App if Advertisers Sign Up

Billionaire Branson's Daughter Holly Is in Charge of Project

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LONDON (AdAge.com) -- Virgin is planning to extend its brand into consumer magazines with the launch of a new title, Maverick, which will be available as an app for the iPad, iPhone and eventually, Android.

Virgin's billionaire founder Richard Branson has brought in his 28-year-old daughter Holly to work as the family's ambassador for the magazine, and she is leading the push to sign up a handful of select premium advertisers to work as "brand partners" on the project. Ms. Branson finished medical school but left her residency two years ago to join the family business.

Holly Branson
Holly Branson Credit: Newscom
According to insiders, Virgin is making the move in response to the opportunities presented by the iPad and other digital media. Major publishers, the company believes, have their hands tied because they can't charge less for an app than they do for the print version of their established magazines.

By launching an app-only title, Virgin is freed up to exploit the creative potential of the medium without the costs of an existing print title to maintain.

A launch is planned for October, but the project is still at an early stage and will only go ahead once enough premium brands have signed up. An executive close to the matter claimed that advertiser response has been positive and that Maverick will be able to choose which brands it signs up for the first batch of six- month contracts.

Maverick will aim to encapsulate the spirit of the Virgin brand by focusing on entrepreneurial endeavors and highlighting new creative, business, travel and technology ideas, targeting an upscale international audience. However, it's not meant to be a promotional tool for Virgin's stable of products, which include an airline, holidays, gyms, financial services, trains and a wine club as well as media, TV, broadband and phone services.

If the venture is successful, Virgin hopes to establish itself as a leader in digital magazines. The company already publishes a number of customer titles such as in-flight magazine Seatback, and Hotline, distributed on Virgin's trains, which are outsourced to contract publishing companies.

Maverick is a 50-50 joint venture with publishing company Seven Squared. The magazine's creative input will be handled by AI, a consultancy led by Anthony Noguera, the former editorial director of German magazine publisher Bauer's men's lifestyle titles, which include FHM and Zoo.

Virgin believes it has identified a market that is underserved and overpriced, and that it can provide a groundbreaking product for the iPad and mobile phones. An executive close to the project predicted, "More than eight 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."

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