Onswipe has designs on a new ad model for touch screens
As part of its stated mission to reinvent the web for tablets and other touch-screen devices, Onswipe is turning its attention toward the advertising ecosystem.
Onswipe, whose eponymous platform lets publishers optimize their websites for touch-screen presentation and navigation, is building out an ad network to promote non-traditional ad solutions for the tablet-optimized websites it powers.
The New York-based startup recently hired its first chief revenue officer, Jared Hand, and is building an ad-sales team to sell directly to advertisers and agencies across what CEO Jason Baptiste calls an “experience network” – an ad network for premium ad solutions.
“The bulk of online dollars are still advertising,” Baptiste said in a phone interview. “We think touch devices are the perfect medium for that.”
A network for touch-optimized advertising could be attractive to premium publishers and brands. In-app advertising has lagged for many publishers, in large part because tablet readers are not yet big enough to justify investments in tablet-specific advertising. Advertisers have also yet to fully embrace responsive design techniques to make their display ads scale across different screen sizes. As a result, tablet advertising innovation has been limited for both apps and the mobile Web.
Baptiste believes Onswipe is “uniquely positioned” to offer innovative, tablet-optimized ad solutions at scale. Onswipe has seen unique visitors across its network of touch-optimized sites (currently comprising 200 premium publishers and thousands of independent sites) increase by about 700% since April, he said. To expand its reach further, Onswipe recently added iPhone and Kindle Fire support to its platform, which initially launched in June2011 for the iPad.
Onswipe offers a series of templates for repackaging RSS feeds and other content into touch-optimized designs. A new product, Onswipe Draft, lets users create custom layouts. The assets are mapped to a subdomain (e.g., touch.cycleworld.com) through which Onswipe provides tablet and smartphone users with an app-like experience.
While Onswipe currently serves publishers’ existing display ads, its goal is to build a new ecosystem around tablet-optimized ads. “We hope to phase out traditional units and enable the execution of something beautiful that lets brands deliver the best experience possible,” Baptiste said.
The first example of Onswipe’s push beyond standard ad units is a full-page unit dubbed the Glossy Ad – a “print-meets-digital” concept that lets advertisers combine brand creative with geolocation and other interactive features.
Onswipe has also been “dabbling in” branded content, which it will now look to scale across its network, Baptiste said. The team will be developing initial test cases for its “experience network” in the fourth quarter and rolling out new products later this year and into early 2013, he said.
“We’re in a unique position to offer brands a way to put sponsored content across 20 sites,” said Baptiste. “We’ve built the touch technology, we serve the ads, and we measure everything.”
The network, he added, will bring new revenue opportunities to publishers. “We look at publishers as partners,” he said. “We want to be a revenue generator for them, not a cost center.”
Onswipe’s platform is free, with the company taking a share of ad revenue served through its touch-optimized sites. Baptiste said the company has no plans to charge a fee to publishers for the technology.
“Our focus is on a platform that everyone has access to,” he explained. “We don’t want to add friction to the experience by charging for it. And we think there’s a much bigger business with top-of-the-funnel brand advertising.”