Congoo To Offer Limited Access To Paid Content

Dec 27, 2005 (01:12 PM EST)

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An online search engine scheduled to launch in late January would provide visitors with free limited access to articles normally sold by publishers, the site's co-founder said Tuesday., funded by five individuals, is the brainchild of chief executive Ash Nashed and Rafael Cosentino, vice president of business development. Nashed is co-founder of Choice Media, an online network of premium Web sites dedicated to consumer healthcare.

In offering access to premium content, is a marketing tool for publishers, giving them the ability to provide potential subscribers a limited number of articles each month to pique their interest. In addition, publishers can choose to market their service directly to visitors by email.

Congoo, on the other hand, plans to make money by selling advertising related to search results. Such sponsored links are common among search engines, such as Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc.

"Everybody wins," Nashed said.

While not ready to name them, Nashed said he has more than 15 publishers signed up, and expects to launch the site with between 20 and 30. The goal is to have more than 100. Nashed, who hopes to launch the site Jan. 24, said the companies publish the nation's largest financial, trade and consumer magazines and newspapers.

To access Congoo services, people would have to download a 200 kilobyte browser plug in and search bar. The software, called a Net Pass, would hold users' authentication information and track how many articles the person downloads. Publishers are expected to make available at no charge from four to 15 articles.

Once registered with Congoo, consumers can access a publisher's Web site directly, without first going through the search engine.

Other than the registration information, Congoo will not keep any other data on users, Nashed said.

"We're not going to keep track of what people are doing," Nashed said.

Congoo, based in Branchburg, N.J., would use its own proprietary technology for searching publishers' content, but plans to partner with one of the major search engine to provide general Web searching. Nashed declined to say which search engines are in negotiations with the company.

In describing Congoo's strategy, Nashed compares it to cable TV operators that offer access to multiple channels. Congoo gives visitors the option of many publications, making it more likely they will choose at least one to visit, Nashed said.

"About 95 percent of people who go to a publisher directly don't register and just leave," Nashed said. "(Congoo) is a much stronger value proposition."

Charging for content is a direction many publishers are heading. The Wall Street Journal, for example, has sold an annual subscription to its Web site for years, and The New York Times recently started selling subscriptions to premium content, which includes its columnists.