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“Apps are bullshit.”
That’s the jarringly simple mantra that OnSwipe CEO Jason Baptiste used to kick off the 2011 NYC TechStars presentation last week. Baptiste is tilting at windmills. At a time when its fashionable to parrot “the web is dead” credo, he’s taking on apps.
The idea behind OnSwipe is to give publishers an easy way to make their content beautiful and social on an iPad without need of a separate app. With a style akin to Flipboard, OnSwipe uses a template-based system for a publisher to take full advantage of the mobile web and offer an attractive package that’s not dependent on a third party. Users navigating to an OnSwipe publisher’s site will see content reformatted for a touch-screen experience. As it stands now, publishers are forced to choose between recreating a desktop experience for iPad via the browser or developing a platform-specific app for distribution through Apple.
“All their traffic and monetization has always been on the web,” Baptiste said while discussing the negatives of jumping on the app bandwagon. “So why build it elsewhere?”
OnSwipe is currently just two people and a few months old. It is out securing publishers to use its platform now. Baptiste won’t divulge any that are using it. The New York company has about $1 million in funding from Spark Capital, Betaworks and Eniac Ventures.
The idea that publishers will abandon native apps is a pipe dream at this point. The marketing power that Apple and Google bring to the table is unparalleled in mobile, but the service is very attractive and a fantastic solution to make sure all the angles are covered. Baptiste and co-founder Andres Barreto are challenging every staple of mobile on smartphones, including how publishers monetize their content.
While the entire mobile ad space makes the push for rich media ads on mobile, for example, OnSwipe is going the other direction. Its interface allows for the use of non-IAB standard ads that mimic full-page magazine placements.
“I don’t think Flash ads done in HTML5 is the future,” said Baptiste. “Everyone is vying for ad dollars. iAds is focused on apps, and their ‘super-rich’ ads are too much.”
OnSwipe plans to take a small CPM fee for serving ads, with publishers handling direct sales. Mobile web, the world outside the caged wall of Apple and Google, is in desperate need of the simplified process those giants have brought to the native smartphone space. OnSwipe could provide that.
“We are making sure that we stay flexible enough while also staying with the mantra of insanely easy,” said Baptiste. “We think this is a once in a generation opportunity as a company to capitalize on this.”
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