Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Morning Brief: Ongo to launch news aggregation site today; J.P. Morgan Chase reduces its stake in Gannett

Another news aggregation site is launching today. Not news, right? Every day a news aggregation site opens, so what is so special about this one? The NYT, Washington Post and Gannett all have invested in the start-up.
The biggest sell made by Alex Kazim, the founder of the Cupertino, Calif. based company, won't be to get readers to pay $6.99 per month to buy aggregated content from news organizations -- because I doubt seriously that they will -- it was getting the media companies themselves to folk over investment dollars to start up Ongo.

Business Insider's story this morning ask "Craziest startup idea ever?", and frankly who can blame them.

Jay Yarow writes: "Ongo is going to aggregate the content from a number of newspapers, strip out the ads, improve the interface and charge a monthly fee. Yes, Ongo is going to CHARGE for news that's generally free on the web. Crazy, right? We think so, but Ongo CEO Alex Kazim doesn't seem rattled."

Kazim's idea is that readers don't need to visit the NYT or USA Today website but can instead go to Ongo to read their news. Of course, I don't think the ad people at any of these companies appreciate the executives at these companies investing with a company that will drive down traffic in exchange for a few pennies generated by subscription revenue.

Kazim is a former executive at EBay and is obviously great at making investment presentations, or he knows an easy mark when he sees one.

J.P. Morgan Chase a year ago upped its stake in Gannett Co., but ABC News reports that the financial giant has reduced its ownership share to 8.98 percent from 10.2 percent.

The story notes that Gannett has stayed profitable by cutting costs, as any employee of the company knows all too well. But maybe J.P. Morgan Chase is also looking at the investment decisions the company is making. In addition to an investment in Ongo, noted above, Gannett in January bought a group of websites called Reviewed.com -- another investment in a property where there is no barrier to entry.

This morning's Bangor Daily News website:
The Bangor Daily News website suffered several hours of downtime Monday evening after hackers from Tunisia exploited a security vulnerability on one of the BDN's servers. While the site is being restored, online readers will notice changes to the display of the site and will be unable to access some features and archived articles. The BDN staff is working as quickly as possible to fully restore the site.
Hackers from Tunisia? That's a first.