Punch! Launches A Platform For Building Interactive iPad Apps, Sans Developers

It’s a familiar story in the tech world: A company wants to build a consumer product, finds that the necessary tools aren’t available, creates its own tools, then realizes it has created a broader platform.

David Bennahum offers some examples: Zip2. Vignette. TypePad. And yes, his startup Punch!, where Bennahum is co-founder and CEO, and which is launching its publishing platform at Disrupt.

Earlier this year, I wrote about the launch of the Punch! app, which offers current event themed games, usually with a satirical bent. (Or, as Bennahum describes it, “culturally relevant content that could only exist on a tablet.”) Some of the early games included one where players choose the wardrobe of then-presidential candidate Rick Santorum, and a general pop culture quiz with challenges like ranking Farrelly Bros. movies based on box office success.

Behind the scenes, Bennahum says the challenge was to add content in a timely manner, so that it was “topical and relevant” — relatively easy for a newspapers or magazines that are only uploading new articles and other content, but harder for Punch!, which doesn’t create articles but rather “mini apps.” To introduce new content at the right pace, Punch needed to cut down on the development time, and it needed to avoid triggering the App Store review process whenever it added a new game.

Punch CMS

So that’s what the Punch! publishing platform does. It offers a content management system where companies can create apps without writing any code in Objective C. Like Punch! itself, these apps shouldn’t just offer a tablet-optimized version of a printed product, but instead include interactivity and gaming. It includes templates for content types like maps, “drag to fill,” and games and quizzes.

And Bennahum says that by “creating an environment that sends scripts to effectively render these app-like experiences,” publishers can introduce mini apps without adding code, which means that once they get the initial approval from Apple, they don’t need to wait on further approval for every new piece of content.

The Punch! platform will allow publishers and other media companies to pay Punch to license the technology and, optionally, to provide additional services to help get them get started.

As for the Punch! app itself, Bennahum says it has now seen 35,000 user sessions. The next challenge is getting on a more regular publishing schedule, which should hopefully happen in the next few weeks.

You can read more about the publishing system here.

Disrupt Q&A

Q: What existing tools is this replacing?

A: To create app-like experiences, most publishers are hiring app development studios. Or they’re using tools that are replicating the print experience.

Q: Tell us more about the pricing.

A: $50,000 license for the year, versus $150,000 on average for app development.

Q: Who are the ideal clients?

A: Media/entertainment companies that have already experimented with tablets and been frustrated with what’s available. Also, brands that want to engage their audiences. Punch! could also partner with companies to create new publications.

Q: What about distribution and discovery tools are you offering?

A: None yet. This is probably for customers who are already engaging an audience on another medium.