Ongo is a new service that sounds crazy, might be brilliant… or might just be as crazy as it sounds. Here’s the pitch: It’s a one-stop shop for news. Right now that stop is a web site, but there’s an iPad app waiting for Apple’s approval and other mobile apps could follow. Content comes from mainstream news sources including the AP, USA Today, The Guardian, The New York Times and the Financial Times.
Here’s the crazy part: Ongo is a subscription service with prices starting at $6.99 per month. That monthly fee will get you access to content that’s largely already available on the web for free.
Sure, there’s some benefit to getting the top stories from multiple sources in a single location. And an ad-free interface is certainly an attractive selling point, (although after spending the last 15 years or so online, I’ve found it’s generally pretty easy to tune out the ads if I don’t want to pay attention to them). But overall, Ongo is still asking people to pay for something that’s already available for free, and that’s a tough business plan to get away with.
Still, I could see Ongo taking off… if companies like the New York Times continue to support the service even after adopting paywalls. Word on the street is that the Times will begin charging customers $20 per month for full access to its site in the not-too-distant future, with limited free access. Even though the New York Times isn’t currently offering up all of its articles to Ongo subscribers, it does make its top stories available for free, which could make that $6.99 per month look like a bargain one day — assuming paywalls actually work for newspapers and they don’t all just go bankrupt one day.