Tech giant Apple and publishing house Penguin are facing a wave of criticism after revelations their author and app-developer Belle Gibson’s cancer survival story may have been embellished.
And next month’s overseas release of The Whole Pantry recipe book is now in doubt, with major US publisher Simon & Schuster confirming it will investigate Ms Gibson’s biography and charitable donations.
Customers who purchased the top-rating food app and recipe book in Australia have demanded refunds after serious inaccuracies were found in the story Ms Gibson has used to build her business.
Penguin and Apple are heavily invested in The Whole Pantry brand, with Apple previously flying Ms Gibson to the US to work in secret on the new Apple Watch. The popular book was marketed off her “inspirational” story of cancer survival and large-scale charitable donations.
Penguin has now admitted it failed to check Ms Gibson’s claims made in the 3000-word preface to her book.
Ms Gibson said she launched the app after being diagnosed with terminal malignant brain cancer in 2009 and given four months to live. She claimed she was healing herself by rejecting conventional medicine and choosing a healthy lifestyle.
A FORMER Brisbane schoolgirl who claimed to have survived cancer due to a healthy lifestyle is facing accusations she fabricated the story to help develop a business.
BELLE Gibson, 23, founded an app called The Whole Pantry, which is marketed as the world’s first health, wellness and lifestyle app community.
Ms Gibson was diagnosed with multiple cancers from 2009 but claimed to have beaten the illness by shunning conventional medicine in favour of a healthy lifestyle.
She has since admitted she may have been misdiagnosed.
Read More: Gibson’s wellness empire a ‘sham’: reports
The Internet, and world media, have erupted over the growing scandal of Australian mobile app entrepreneur and social media presence Belle Gibson. Her app, “The Whole Pantry” lists recipes promoting a healthy lifestyle and “Wellness Guides”. Sales of the app have been boosted by claims from Belle Gibson that 25% of the proceeds of sales would go to charity. Despite claims that money had been handed over to charities, most of those named claimed never to have received anything.
Belle Gibson’s celebrity was further boosted by claims she made that she had multiple cancers in her “blood, spleen, brain and uterus”. It subsequently proved however, that the cancers had actually been a misdiagnosis that Gibson admitted was “humiliating”. What was also notable about the cancer claims was that Gibson was shunning conventional treatments and using only “alternative therapies”.
All of this publicity and outpouring of pity for her plight served to boost app sales. On Google Play, it has been installed between 10,000 – 50,000 times. On #apple’s iTunes, it has been downloaded 300,000 times although apparently 200,000 of those were in the first month
The app sells for $3.79 on the Australian store and $2.99 in the US. Developers normally receive 70% which means that the app would have made about $800,000 from sales on iTunes. It is only A$2.99 on Google’s Play Store. Assuming that they app was downloaded 50,000 times, Gibson would have earned about $100,000 from those sales. This is actually fairly good when you consider that 90% of paid apps make less than $1,250 a day. By comparison, Candy Crush, one of the world’s most popular games was making around $950,000 per day.
Although Belle Gibson is credited with being the developer of the app, it was in fact developed by two freelance developers in 2013. Neither of them seemed to have worked on the app recently apart from Alex Benevento who accompanied Belle Gibson to Apple’s headquarters last year to convert the app to run on the upcoming Apple Watch.
Given the nature of the developers, the costs of developing the apps would not have been significant. But even assuming a conservative estimate of $50,000, it is hard to understand where the company’s “cash-flow problems” came from given how much money was made from the sales.
In fact, most of Belle Gibson’s efforts in the past year seem to have been in producing a book that has been published by Penguin. The book details her diagnosis of terminal brain cancer and how she abandoned chemotherapy for a health and wellness approach to her diet.
The difficulty for all mobile app developers is that there are over 1.2 million apps in both Google’s and Apple’s app store. Getting an app noticed in this is extremely difficult and largely down to chance. The temptation to do what Belle Gibson did would have been enormous. This was especially the case because she had already built up large followings on Facebook, Instagram and her own blog site.
##police in Victoria have conducted a welfare-related call at the home of social-media entrepreneur Belle Gibson, as her US #publisher suspended its plans to publish her book after revelations about her claims to be a cancer survivor.
Two police officers visited Ms Gibson’s Melbourne home for 10 minutes on Tuesday, and Victoria Police confirmed that a welfare-check at a home in bayside #elwood had raised “nil concerns”.
Ms Gibson, the 23-year-old entrepreneur behind the multi-media business The Whole Pantry, has a four-year-old son but she was not at home at the time. It is understood she is overseas.
She remained silent about the controversy that has erupted since The Australian revealed on Tuesday that her claims of suffering multiple life-threatening cancers were questionable.
Her book The Whole Pantry — a guide to “wellness” in which she says she survived terminal brain cancer using oxygen therapy, colonics and other natural remedies — was due to be published next month in the US and Britain.
But the director of publicity at Atria Books in the US, Paul Olsewski, said the company was now seeking clarification from Ms Gibson about her history and her charitable activities, which are being investigated by Victorian authorities.
“Any and all decisions regarding publication of The Whole Pantry will be made when we have had the opportunity to evaluate all the available information,” Mr Olsewski said.
Ms Gibson was also scheduled to be involved in the launch of the Apple Watch next month, following the success of her award-winning iPad and iPhone apps. Apple did not respond to repeated calls yesterday about whether the company was reviewing its relationship with her company.
Former friends and acquaint ances of Ms Gibson’s continued to surface on social media yesterday, expressing scepticism about her claim that she underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy for two months in 2009 after being told she had only four months to live.
Consumer Affairs Victoria, Australia, and possibly Victoria Police are said to be investigating Belle Gibson, the creator of popular iOS, and #apple Watch default app The Whole Pantry. Authorities are looking into allegations of charity fraud, and that she deceived the public by faking stories about having cancer for financial gain.
Gibson, 28, built the app based on her personal blog, where she told a story that she had survived a terminal brain tumor when she was younger through healthy living. Through the blog and the app, Gibson claims to have helped countless people dump conventional medicine to treat illnesses including cancer.
The app became a decent success, with over 300,000 downloads on Apple’s app store (notably there’s only a paid version), and it was voted the best food and drink app of 2013.
Gibson’s success with the app led to a book deal with Penguin, along with widespread publicity, particularly in Australia, where she became a popular speaker on health issues.
But the best lies often come undone when you add to them, with Gibson claiming in 2014 that she was now suffering cancer of the liver, uterus, spleen and blood; in an interview Monday Gibson now claims that she had been “misdiagnosed.”
Gibson maintained that she had previously beaten terminal brain tumor, but that story appears to be full of holes as well; various reports quote former friends stating that in 2009, during the time she claims to have been told she had 4 months to live, she was never ill. Doctor’s also note rightly that you can’t cure terminal cancer through healthy living and lifestyle.