Personal news aggregation site Ongo launches this week, backed by some of the biggest names in the newspaper business.
For $6.99/month, Ongo offers ad-free access to stories from The Washington Post and USA Today, plus selected content from the New York Times — which is about to erect a paywall around its website — and the Financial Times.
Similar to how Hulu pulls together the "best of" programming from TV networks and movie studios, Ongo bills itself as a “service that gives consumers a fundamentally new way to read, discover and share digital news and information.”
Founder and CEO Alex Kazim says Ongo is geared towards the 12% of online news junkies who frequent more than six sites a day.
Other papers can be chosen on an a la carte basis, starting at 99 cents a month, and include mid-market U.S. newspapers such as the Boston Globe, Charlotte Observer, Miami Herald, Des Moines Register, Sacramento Bee, plus The Guardian and the Associated Press.
It’s a mash-up of content and relies on technology to pick top headlines, but unlike Google News’ algorithm-centric generation, Ongo employs five human editors as well.
Ongo is backed by The New York Times, The Washington Post and Gannett among others, and with $12 million in funding, touts “smart news features” that include:
• Ongo Home – A single "front page" for the most important news plus stories picked by the editors.
• Titles – Access to news by a subscriber's publications.
• My Topics – Customized "playlist" arranged by title, section or keyword.
• Clippings – Save articles for later reading.
• Ongo Search – By category, title, date or writer.
• Sharing – Invite-only discussion "Clubs." http://ongo.com/press-room.php
What’s not satisfactory – according to Rob Pegoraro who writes for Ongo backer, The Washington Post — is that links and photos have “limited odds” of working onsite, and “interactive elements have no chance at all.” Web-only pieces don't appear at all, and the biggest issue for a website: its search function isn't up to scratch.
Ongo, he writes, "ignores bylines—a query for my last name over the last 30 days reveals only one story, rather than the (yikes!) 62 I wrote—although you can then refine a search by choosing from a menu of byline names. It doesn't factor in column titles at all.”
Ongo’s Board of Directors includes Martin Nisenholtz, SVP Digital Operations, The New York Times Company, Vijay Ravindran, SVP, CDO, The Washington Post Company, Rajiv Dutta, Managing Director, Elevation Partners, and founder Alex Kazim.
There’s a free “day pass” for those who want to stick a toe in – and a free one-month trial for those who set up a subscription.
Their tag: “Personal, efficient, powerful… Ongo: One smart read.”
Its readers will be the judge of that.