Ongo Launches To Save Newspapers Online – But Do They Need Saving?

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Three newspaper giants have joined forces to try and revolutionize the online newspaper business – but does it really need that much revolution? Today sees the launch of Ongo, a personalized subscription news service that will give readers access to stories from the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today for $7 a month (Other papers can be added as sources for 99 cents per paper). The service will be available through web browsers and mobile devices, and will resemble newspaper layouts in terms of design.

The launch comes at the same time that the Newspaper Association of America is reporting that an average of 105.3 million Americans per month visited newspaper websites for Q4 of 2010, with visits averaging out to 32.3 minutes and 38.9 page views per viewer per month. Of course, these numbers are for free sites, but with the NAA also reported that online ad revenues for newspaper websites are growing, with 11% growth for Q3 2010 compared with the same period in 2009, with overall online revenue up 9.5% in the same time period (It’s worth pointing out that the NAA admits that the growth of online revenue isn’t enough to offset the decline of print revenue). So, which is the way forward for newspaper presence online: Free to access, paid for with ad revenue, or paid subscriptions? Expect many nervous eyeballs on Ongo for the next few months, looking for signs of an answer.

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