Posts Tagged ‘paywalls’

Personal news service ‘Ongo’ blends aggregation with paywalls

January 25th, 2011

Ongo is a news aggregator that charges users for access to content

By Chris Hogg

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:


[Cross-posted to Future of Media]

Millions of Americans use Twitter, just don’t ask them to pay for it

July 26th, 2010

According to a new study by the University of Southern California’s School for Communication and Journalism, half of all Americans have used a Web application such as Twitter, but none of them would be willing to pay to use them.

The study called “Surveying the Digital Future” found that Americans have a strong negative reaction when it comes to paying for online services.

The study, now in its tenth year, found 49 percent of Web users have used services such as Twitter but when asked if they would pay to continue doing so, zero percent said yes.

“Such an extreme finding that produced a zero response underscores the difficulty of getting Internet users to pay for anything that they already receive for free,” said Jeffrey I. Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism in a press release (opens in PDF). “Twitter has no plans to charge its users, but this result illustrates, beyond any doubt, the tremendous problem of transforming free users into paying users. Online providers face major challenges to get customers to pay for services they now receive for free.”

Twitter is just one example of a service respondents said they wouldn’t pay to continue using. In fact, the Digital Future Study found 55 percent would rather see advertising in front of them than pay for content. Furthermore, the study discovered half of all Web users never click on advertising and 70 percent called it “annoying.”

“Internet users can obtain content in three ways: They can steal it, or pay for it, or accept advertising on the Web pages they view,” said Cole. “Users express strong negative views about online advertising, but they still prefer seeing ads as an alternative to paying for content. Consumers really want free content without advertising, but ultimately they understand that content has to be paid for — one way or another.”

The paying-for-Web-services issue was one of 180 explored in the study. In addition to social media habits, the survey also looked at general Web browsing, e-commerce, politics and media consumption.

According to USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, nearly two-thirds of Americans now buy online; most households now use broadband; a majority of families own two or more computers; and large percentages of users say the Internet is important in political campaigns.

Despite increased online activity, many Americans also say they deeply distrust online information and many feel the Internet does not give them more political power. In addition, the number of people who believe technology makes the world a better place is on the decline.

The study also noted the following key findings:

• For the first time, the Internet is used by more than 80 percent of Americans (it’s now 82 percent).
• The average time online has reached 19 hours per week.
• Internet use is higher among younger people, with 100 percent of those under age 24 going online.
• 19 percent of respondents between the ages of 46 and 55 said they do not use the Internet and 15 percent of respondents between the ages of 36 to 45 are not online.
• New media is used by large percentages of younger demographics, but large percentages of Internet users never go online for instant messaging (50 percent), to work on a blog (79 percent), to participate in chat rooms (80 percent), or to make or receive phone calls (85 percent).
• 61 percent of Internet users said online purchasing has reduced their buying in traditional retail stores. The top 10 online purchases: 59 percent of Internet users said they purchase books or clothes online, followed by gifts (55 percent), travel (53 percent), electronics/appliances (47 percent), videos (46 percent), computers or peripherals (41 percent), software or games (40 percent), CDs (40 percent), and products for hobbies (38 percent).

Media consumption habits:

According to the study, newspapers rank below the Web and TV as a source of information. A total of 56 percent of Web users ranked newspapers as “important” or “very important” sources of info, representing a decrease from 60 percent in 2008.

Furthermore, 18 percent of Internet users stopped a subscription to a newspaper or magazine because they get the same or related content online. The study’s author concludes this represents a “…strong indication print newspapers can be sacrificed by a significant percentage of Internet users.”

In addition, 22 percent of Web users who read newspapers said they would not miss the print edition if it was no longer available.

“The downward spiral in print newspaper circulation no doubt will be accelerated by advances in online delivery of news content through e-readers or other handheld electronic devices,” said Cole. “After years of aborted attempts, these advances finally appear to be practical and affordable methods of providing electronic news content to readers. If so, what will that mean for the future of the traditional print newspaper?”