A new search engine provides a free look at The Encyclopedia Britannica, The Financial Times, The New Republic and other providers of premium news and information usually not found in Internet search engine results.
Congoo began distributing a Web toolbar this week thats necessary to view the material. Once downloaded, visitors to Congoo get to see scores of premium articles per month.
The feature operates on the theory that a look at life behind the subscription or pay-per-view wall motivates people to buy a full-time pass and is therefore a boon for publishers.
To make publishers more comfortable with a carrot-on-a-stick approach, those signing up get access to Congoo users registration information, which includes gender, zip code and e-mail address. These are all potentially very valuable marketing tools.
Reference kingpin Encyclopedia Britannica Online, music industry bible Billboard Magazine, entertainment eye candy The Hollywood Reporter, TheStreet.com, The San Jose Mercury News and several other major U.S. newspapers are contributing content.
As with any Internet search startup, Congoo faces some long odds, or so it would seem. But it also faces a particular threat of igniting a Napster like spread of copyrighted material.
Nearly 45 percent of all Internet search inquiries are done through Google, of Mountain View, Calif. Meanwhile four other companies, including Yahoo of Sunnyvale, Calif., have locked up 42 percent of the audience. That leaves just three percent for the execs at Congoo and other startups to battle for.
But Congoo, and other small search firms, said that three percent is enough to go around.
Aside from overall market forces, theres the potential damaging Napster effect that looms at Congoo.
To some degree, Congoos technology, which includes tools to share results, hearkens back to the late 1990s and the rise of Napster and other file swapping software makers that broke the recording industrys decades-old business model by distributing their music for free over the Internet.
Instead of a firestorm of people swapping music files, Nashed says theres a chance Congoo users could, in the vein of Napster, freely amass huge libraries of subscription content that they would then trade with friends.