Backed by a ton of investment money, sycophantic tech site support, and lots of bombast, Onswipe supposedly launched its new service yesterday in NYC. I say supposedly because as this morning I can find no trace of evidence that the event even happened. The promised live streaming never occurred, and the company's website has not changed one bit – not even the company's own blog mentions the event, and a Google search reveals no news stories from the actual event.
All that did not stop Jeff Sonderman at Poynter from writing a press release for the company and for other sites such as Mashable and Wired from writing stories about the company, often embedding the same video that was released two months ago.
The PR strategy has definitely worked as a search of Twitter shows these same stories being retweeted endlessly (though one tweet asks "Where are you?", referring no doubt to the lack of a live stream of the launch event).
(I signed up with Onswipe back in February, got a confirmation back then heard nothing until I received the launch event.)
As of now one can see an example of Onswipe's technology being used on the iPad version of Slate which transforms the normal web version of the site into a Flipboard-looking version. (Notice that there are no ads to be found on this version of the website.)
For me, this looks like an alternative way to create websites, not necessarily tablet editions. I could definitely see TNM, for instance, using Onswipe to create a new version of this site for viewing on a tablet. But is this a good solution for GQ or other magazines? Maybe, if there are alternatives to the Flipboard look.
As someone who has sat in on countless sales presentations from flipbook makers, website designers and hosting services, there is something vaguely familiar going on here. A company promises a cheap and easy alternative to the more costly, time consuming chore of app development. The sales pitch from the flipbook guys has always been "you're struggling with making money online why not bring your magazine to the web?"
With the replica edition folk the sales pitch appears to be similar – don't bother with apps, go with replica editions. No surprise then that Michael Schreck, the new CEO of Zmags, wrote yesterday in support of Onswipe-type solutions claiming that "apps are a bridge to nowhere."
"OnSwipe’s newly announced capability to help content owners create an “app-like experience” without needing to build an app is another good example of a creative approach to content delivery. It’s something we’ve been doing for years for literally thousands of the top brands and publishers around the world (From Audi to Virgin Mobile)," Schreck (or the PR department) wrote.
The problem, of course, is that while browser-based solutions can deliver a browser-like experience will it also deliver an app-like experience? We won't really know, of course, until someone can build a tablet edition that can favorably compare with something like Biblion.
For me, I love these new alternatives to native app development. But I don't see them as replacing native apps, just an another option for publishers to consider.
I've written here in the past about my first encounter with VideoEgg and the revelation that the company wasn't really selling a software solution but was instead building an ad network. Isn't Onswipe's business model the same?