Ongo defies automation in aggregation with hand-picked news

ongo front page

“Content curation” has been a buzz word in the past couple of years, and even social networks like Twitter and Facebook have notably evolved into user-sourced content sharing platforms. Much of today’s deliberate curation services recommend content algorithmically, based on your particular taste in news. But automated suggestions pose the inherent risk that we may only consume stories and angles tailored to our existing beliefs. A budding service that clearly distinguishes itself from its competitors is Ongo, a news curation platform that combines the best of automation and manual curation, thanks to its team of expert editors.

Because algorithm-based curation platforms suggest articles based on your selective taste in news, readers may be isolated from “must-read” news that gets filtered away. Other people who rely on Facebook friends for news may have experienced the agony of realizing that they’re days or even months behind the latest news.

Ongo is unique in two ways. First, it has built its platform based on authoritative sources of news from the New York Times and Reuters. It prides itself on a strict standard of quality for news delivered to Ongo users, while boasting partnerships with the top content providers within each genre of news.

“I think the biggest differentiator that I see when I look out at the landscape of our competitors from an aggregation standpoint is that we really focus on news outlets that carry with it more of a traditional brand,” Ongo COO Dan Haarmann told Digital Trends.

Second, Ongo is run using an internal algorithm recommending a selection of 10,000 articles daily for its editors to choose from. The editors will then curate authoritative and must-know news. It’s a daunting number, but with 40 publishing partners representing just over 100 publications,  60 RSS titles curated from the Web, plus 80 more publication deals in the works, this is just the beginning.

Just who is responsible for the manual aggregation? Kevin Skaggs, Ongo’s Chief Content Officer and former Executive Producer of, is at the helm of curating the daily news. “He comes from a more traditional news background where he’s looking out over the course of the day and deciding how he’s going to program the day with all the news that’s happening. We’re hooked into trending topics, but we’re not actually surfacing that stuff via an algorithm,” Haarmann explains.

On the front end, the publications are packaged into “Titles” that users can pick and choose to appear in their news feeds, whether it’s TechCrunch for “Technology,” or Pitchfork for “Arts & Entertainment.” The caveat is that while some publication Titles are free to read, many other titles require a monthly subscription ranging from $0.99 to upwards of $9.99 for The Chicago Tribune.

ongo titles

But Haarmann is confident that Ongo’s two competitive advantages, and that the ad-free experience merits the base subscription price of $1.99 per month per user. To date, Ongo touts over 20,000 subscribers, a growth attributed to the last four months when the number of subscribers grew 200 percent month-over-month. On the other hand, you may also be getting a deal on your favorite publications. For example, you may be limited to 10 New York Times articles per month, but you’re on Ongo, you can read up to 20 curated NYTimes articles per day.

Ongo was birthed from an incubator that Ongo CEO, Alex Kazim, had started back in 2007. It wasn’t until 2009 that Kazim and Haarmann ramped up their efforts with Ongo and consequently closed a $12 million series A round of funding from The New York Times, The Washington Post and Gannett in June 2010. In January 2011, the team subsequently launched its beta Web application and finally officially launched out of beta on July 2011.

Ongo was the product of a few years of aggressive research in Web-app-based curation platforms, but at the conclusion of the original research, the iPad had just been released. Noticing its need for a cross-platform application and considering the rise in popularity of iPads, Ongo recently launched its simple-to-use iPad application.

foreign policy Ongo ipad app

Its smartphone platform, on the other hand, is merely a mobile version of its Web application. While we’d love to see a mobile app, our wish will remain unfulfilled until Ongo figures out a way around the 30 percent commission (which is its margin) for every in-app purchase or app purchase from iTunes and Google Play.

While there’s admittedly room for growth and potential in the curation platform, the editors are the one thing that Haarmann assures us will never be excised from the service, despite the overhead costs of maintaining the team. The human element, after all, is what sets Ongo apart from a field of computer-powered competitors.

Emerging Tech

An A.I. cracks the internet’s squiggly letter bot test in 0.5 seconds

How do you prove that you’re a human when communicating on the internet? The answer used to be by solving a CAPTCHA puzzle. But maybe not for too much longer. Here is the reason why.

You don't want to sleep on these red-hot bedding deals

We've rounded up some of the best discounts and sales happening right now, so you can buy yourself (or your loved ones) new bedding without breaking your budget. Trust us when we say these are deals worth losing sleep over.
Home Theater

New TV? Here's where to go to watch the best 4K content available

Searching for content for your new 4K UHD TV? Look no further. We have every major source of the best 4K content, along with the cost, hardware requirements, and features that make each service worth a look.
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and other that do ... nothing particularly useful.

The LG V40 ThinQ, G7 ThinQ, and Watch W7 are discounted for the holidays

LG announced a series of deals for the holiday season where you can buy the company's two flagship phones, the V40 ThinQ and G7 ThinQ, as well as its latest smartwatch, for between $150 and $200 off, depending on the device.

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.

Midrange phones can’t do A.I., but MediaTek’s P90 chip aims to change that

MediaTek has announced the Helio P90 mobile processor, which it says will bring the best A.I. features we see on high-end smartphones, to the mid-range. We spoke to the company about the chip.

Want to watch Netflix in bed or browse the web? We have a tablet for everyone

There’s so much choice when shopping for a new tablet that it can be hard to pick the right one. From iPads to Android, these are our picks for the best tablets you can buy right now whatever your budget.

McLaren puts the pedal to the metal in special-edition OnePlus 6T

The OnePlus 6T is yet another flagship killer smartphone, bringing powerful specifications to a much lower price than the competition. Now, OnePlus has teamed up with McLaren for the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition.

G’day, Google: U.S. users can now give Assistant a British or Australian accent

U.S. Google Assistant users can give their Assistant a different voice. Google has updated Assistant with the ability for users to give it either a British or Australian accent, which could make it a little more personal for some.

Tune in to the best internet radio stations for your listening pleasure

Even in the streaming era, radio stations get some of the best exclusives and curate some of the finest handpicked playlists around. Here are the best internet radio stations, for your listening pleasure.

Microsoft’s latest patent paves the way for Andromeda dual-screen mobile device

The latest patent discovery from Microsoft showcases a new hinge design for quickly opening a dual-screen mobile device with a single hand. Could this be additional proof surrounding the rumors of the company's Project Andromeda device?

Need to record calls on an iPhone? Check out our handy guide

Are you wondering how to record calls on your iPhone? It isn't as easy as you might think, but we'll walk you through the process of doing so with Google Voice, and identify several other apps and external voice recorders that can help.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best true wireless earbuds around.