OnSwipe competitor and TechCrunch Disrupt finalist Pressly is launching today with its first major publisher, Canada’s largest newspaper The Toronto Star. Like OnSwipe or even iPad mag Flipboard, Pressly’s service is designed to give traditional Web content a makeover by making it more tablet-friendly. But in Pressly’s case, it’s not about re-packaging content as a native app – instead, it uses a combination of HTML5 and customizable templates to allow publishers more control over the tablet browsing experience.
At first glance, Pressly, the first real alternative to OnSwipe, looks a lot like its competition. Both services let publishers make their content more digestible for tablet reading. However, according to Pressly CTO Peter Kieltyka, the key difference between the two is what’s under the hood. “OnSwipe started as a way to optimize a WordPress blog,” he says. “But Pressly is more of an engine…it’s like Sencha for tablets.” What he means is that Pressly was built from the get-go to be a framework for building next-generation HTML5 websites, as opposed to a tool where you pump in an RSS feed and it spits out a tablet-optimized site. (Although that’s coming, too – Pressly is launching its own self-serve platform in Q1 2012 that will do exactly that.)
At launch, there are currently five templates available to get publishers started with Pressly, but really, anything goes. Publishers who want to maintain their brand can create their own templates, explains Kieltyka, “there’s no limitation over what you see on a page.” In other words, if you can imagine it, Pressly can help you build it. Meanwhile, OnSwipe sites tend to look a little more uniform. (Kieltyka says they look exactly the same. Ooh, burn – let the battles begin!)
“It’s like the difference between a BlackBerry and an iPhone,” Kieltyka says. Yes, they’re both smartphones, they run apps, they let you browse the Web, etc. “But at the end of the day, it comes down to execution.”
Pressly is also now offering something else that makes it different from OnSwipe – a consumption model for monetization. Before, like OnSwipe, Pressly would take a cut of the ad revenue. Now, publishers have a choice between that and something like $1 per every 1,000 swipes. This figure is not yet in stone, it should be noted.
As for its launch on The Toronto Star, things are going fairly well. Since its debut at 6:30 PM EST last night, Pressly has seen 180,000 flips at an average of 22.6 flips per person. The company says its goal is to reach 1 billion flips per month over the next twelve months. It may get there, too, thanks to a couple of other publisher partners whose launches are just ahead: The Economist Media Group is debuting a Pressly-built site in a couple of weeks and soon after a news-focused NBC property will follow.
Tablet readers who want to see Pressly in action from their iPad or Android tablet can do so now by visiting read.thestar.com.