A cabal of New York media notables has been working on the most secretive editorial product for the iPad since The Daily, and after more than a year in development, it’s out today: Punch!, an “interactive satirical app” styled after a bookshelf lined with games like “Hedge Fund or Organic Farm?” and “Test Your Pop Culture IQ,” is light on substance and heavy on delight. It’s nothing like The Daily, cofounder and creative directory Dany Levy, founder of DailyCandy, told Betabeat.
Every feature, from “Closet Case,” in which you can dress up Rick Santorum like a paper doll, and “Visit the New North Korea,” a theoretical pitch to North Korea’s tourism board, demands swiping. The app has no ads, although its first sponsored content will roll out in conjunction with the Tribeca Film Festival, which is its first sponsor. Eventually, there will be a fee to download, Ms. Levy said.
“It’s a nice departure from DailyCandy. It’s less sort of product pushing and more sort of commentary on pop culture,” she said. “It’s meant to be really easy on the eye and it’s meant to be sort of just fun. There’s not a lot of text-heavy stuff.”
Punch draws some of its brand of subversive cleverness from the classic New York alt-magazines Radar and Spy. The format is influenced by mobile games. “Most news-y apps look like pages of a magazine stuck on an iPad. We set out to build an experience from the ground up that has nothing to do with print, and can only exist on a tablet,” CEO and cofounder David Bennahum said in an email.
Eventually the app will update daily, but now it’s updating “when culturally relevant stuff appears,” Ms. Levy said.
Punch’s other cofounders include Mr. Bennahum, who came up with the idea with former Radar editor Maer Roshan. Daniel Wyszynski, as chief technology officer, is also part of the founding team. Kate Elazegui, who has worked in art departments including New York, Money and Radar, oversees the design. The team of about 12 people including interns, Ms. Levy recalled, works out of an office on West 27th St.
The reception has been good, Ms. Levy said, although they won’t know until some time tomorrow how many downloads the app got. It got mostly coverage in tech blogs, but that’s all right, she said. “We’re a technology company,” she said, echoing Nick Denton’s famous quip about Gawker. “We’re a media company, but we’re really a technology company.”
Seed funding for Punch came from Betaworks, David Tisch (TechStars), Ms. Levy, Jason Calacanis (formerly of Silicon Alley Reporter and Weblogs, Inc.) and New Enterprise Associates.