Thursday, October 7, 2010

Morning Brief: Digital media start-up Ongo raises $12M from old media giants; building new lists through apps

The new venture from former Skype and e-Bay executive Alex Kazim is off to a rip-roaring start: Ongo has raised $12 million from old media giants the New York Times Company, the Washington Post and Gannett. Each company will be represented on the board of the new company.

The Cupertino-based start-up is flying under the radar for now, but with all that dough you can expect a big launch when the company is ready. The AP quotes Kazim as saying that Ongo will "reflect the many ways consumers prefer to read, organize and share digital news."

OK, that's pretty vague. Robin Pence, a spokeswoman for Gannett, adds "it's an opportunity to work with two very high-quality media partners and an excellent and experienced technology group." $4 million a piece is a pretty high price for something that could have been accomplished through eHarmony, no?

An e-mail I received this morning reinforces in my mind a big reason why publishers need to get serious about their tablet publishing efforts -- build those lists.

This e-newsletter arrived from the Financial Times and is the direct result of their iPad app. During the process of downloading and installing their news app onto my tablet, the FT asked that I register to gain access to their content which was free of charge for a limited time. Now the FT has a nice list to use for its e-newsletter -- a newsletter, by the way, that contains an ad from HSBC (though it is 'below the fold' and can't be seen in this screenshot).

Now that the Tories are in power the BBC must be trimmed back if ideology is to be served. So first to go will be the Beeb's portfolio of magazines led by the venerable Radio Times and the popular auto book Top Gear. For US readers, it is important to know that these are not the equivalent of thin rags produced by your local public radio station. Because of that, big publishers like Hachette Filipacchi and Hearst are seriously interested, according to a post at Mediaweek (UK).

BBC Magazines has been a profitable entity, bringing in £18m in profit for the 12 months ending in March of this year, according to Mediaweek. So we ask 'who benefits from a weakened BBC?' (That's an easy one.)