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article image'Ongo' attempts to blend news aggregation with paywalls

By Chris Hogg     Jan 25, 2011 in Business
It calls itself a “personal news service.” Others ask if it’s the craziest startup idea ever. The business is Ongo and it’s a news site attempting to blend aggregated content with paywalls.
“Premiering with more than a dozen top-tier titles in a single interface designed for readability, Ongo delivers full articles and convenient customization features, along with editorial curation that uncovers vital and interesting stories beyond the day’s top headlines,” a company press release reads.
Ongo says it offers an “immersive” reading experience where users can easily search, save and share stories — something it says other news aggregators fail at doing. “Many of today’s online news aggregation services are disjointed, distracting experiences — providing only snippets of articles surrounded by links and ads that require readers to jump from site to site,” the company says.
With its debut, Ongo will be carrying content from The Washington Post, The Associated Press, The Guardian, Slate, The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald, USA Today, and selected content from the Financial Times and the New York Times.
Ongo promises to carry content from these sources, strip out ads, improve the interface and charge $7 per month for a base subscription (for select Financial Times stories, as well as content from the Washington Post, USA Today, select New York Times content and AP stories). It costs an additional $0.99 to add content from other sources (Slate, Boston Globe or other regional newspapers).
“Yes, Ongo is going to charge for news that’s generally free on the web,” Jay Yarow from Business Insider notes. “Crazy, right? We think so, but Ongo CEO Alex Kazim doesn’t seem rattled.”
Yarow compares Ongo to basic cable, where you pay a flat fee for content and you get more for a little extra cash each month.
According to Business Insider, Ongo execs estimate the service could generate $6.99 per user, so 1 million users would make it a $100-million business. With 100,000 users, it would be worth $10 million.
Kazim previously worked at Skype, PayPal and eBay and Ongo investors include USA Today, New York Times and Gannet who put $12 million into the company in September 2010.
The company launches today with mobile apps and a traditional website. More info on product features can be found via the company’s press release. A demo of the service is available via a company YouTube video:
For more information on Web, technology and business trends affecting media, visit our sister site, Future of Media.
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