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Ongo launches, a personal, paid-for digital news reader

Ongo launches, a personal, paid-for digital news reader

Ongo, a new digital personal news service backed with $12 million from Gannett, The New York Times Co and The Washington Post Co has just launched, with an aim of "redefining the way you read, discover and share the news." It is essentially an aggregator, but one that allows users to read full articles within its platform.

Accessible from web browsers on computers, smart phones or tablets, the basic package starts at $6.99 a month. It has submitted an app to Apple for the iPad, the Washington Post said, but this has not yet appeared.

This basic package includes access to Associated Press coverage, all original Washington Post content from The Washington Post print edition, all content from USA Today, New York Times Picks, and selected content from the Financial Times. Subscribers can select one other title to add to their subscription from those available, and additional titles from 99 cents a month, up to $14.99 for the full edition of The Boston Globe, or $9.99 for the full edition of The Guardian. Other publications include The Miami Herald, The Kansas City Star, The Sacremento Bee, or Slate. Some papers provide all their content; some only a selection.

"Ongo emphasizes immersive reading that is unabridged and uninterrupted," the press release said. The service has no ads, and stories are laid out in a manner intended to be readable, with a feel that is more app-like than browser-like. You can hover over photos to see the caption, or click on a picture to see a larger version.

The homepage has a selection of stories which the introductory video says is "carefully curated" to show the top stories from the titles the user has paid for. A "My Topics" section allows the reader to customize their own news "playlist," filtered by title, section or keyword. Readers can save stories for later in 'Clippings' and can share articles with anybody, via email, Facebook or Twitter, regardless of whether people are Ongo subscribers or not. It is also possible to create 'Clubs' with other subscribers and non-subscribers via email addresses, with which you can share and discuss articles.

According to the Washington Post, Ongo relies on software to pick its top headlines, but also employs five editors.

The service needs some fine-tuning - such as the keywords option in the My Topics area, which brought up many duplicates of the same stories, and as WaPo's Rob Pegoraro pointed out, the search function is not fully effective and not all links and photos are making it over. Also, the publications involved lose a lot of their visual branding, all displayed in the same font and style.

The site aims to interest the 12% of online readers who hit more than six news sites a day, WaPo said, reporting on a meeting in which founder and CEO Alex Kazim spoke. Kevin Skaggs, Ongo's chief content officer, said in the introductory video that "These days there are so many ways to get the news that it's often difficult to find that special combination of what we need to know and what we want to know, all in one place."

This may well be true, but will people be prepared to pay for this? Most of the news available via Ongo is available free online, so it is very much the delivery method and convenience that would be paid for (along the lines of the bottled water comparison.) In this sense, it is undoubtedly an interesting experiment in terms of what might make people prepared to pay online, which publishers could learn a lot from in their hunt for an effective digital business model.

Source: Ongo, Washington Post



Emma Goodman


2011-01-25 19:07

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