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Social Startups: Circa Modernizes the Mobile News Consumption Experience
Posted on March 27th 2014
A report released last week by Millward Brown confirms U.S. daily smartphone screen time is No. 1, outpacing television. This applies worldwide, too, according to the report. While we have the technology to read news on the go, the pace of news is almost real-time on all channels (radio, TV, and social media) as well. Yet we still live in 1899 when it comes to news delivery.
“Even though it’s been more than 15 years since the Internet became a news destination, journalists and editors are still trapped in the print and TV world of message delivery,” wrote Ben Huh in his "Moby Dick Project," which was sort of a campaign to rally people passionate about changing this.
“Ben and Matt [Galligan] met soon after, and decided to begin putting those ideas into an actual product, called Circa,” says Anthony De Rosa about the newsreader startup that recruited him from his social media editor position at Reuter’s. “Matt came to me in early 2012, and we kept in touch. I never forgot that meeting, and was really interested in what he and the team were doing. Matt and I met once again in summer 2013, and I decided I had to come work with these guys who had the same goals I did—to reinvent the article and deliver news the way people actually want it.”
But instead of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, Huh, Galligan, and their third co-founder, Arsenio Santos, who founded Circa in December 2011, set out to create the first born-on-mobile news experience. “It's insane the way most news organizations still produce news as if smartphones don't exist or as if people read news on their phone the way they read it on desktop or in print,” De Rosa says about the free app that launched in October 2012. “There really is no true competitor to Circa. There are companies who attempt to do news on mobile but don't really address the problems readers deal with.”
Some of the pain points include fluff, redundant reading, lack of time, and bias. So Circa re-imagines the way news is created, delivered, and read.
Instead of articles, Circa presents news as a collection of details about a story: the facts, stats, quotes, pictures, maps, and more (excluding the fluff). Each story on Circa has the same information you’d find in traditional articles, but broken down into individual chunks that are much easier to skim, starting with the latest details.
Each point within a Circa story is presented on its own “card,” so it’s easy to swipe through and read a whole story in less than a minute.
Users can tap the “follow” feature to keep track of multiple stories across the web and receive updates on any changes to them. You can choose from sections to stay informed of Top Stories, United States, Politics, World, Technology, and Science & Health. Plus, all stories point readers to similar articles. And it's easy to share stories or particular facts from them via social media, SMS, and email.
Circa editors “have varied backgrounds, working for both digital native news organizations and established newsrooms,” De Rosa says. “We only have one editor whose focus is on a single topic. The rest of our team are generalists and cover a wide range of topics. None of us really produced stories the way we do with Circa prior to coming here, but everyone picked it up, and it's actually a much nicer workflow than the traditional way to cover news. We don't spend time doing rewrites. We mainly have to focus on updates, and can manage to touch far more stories than we would if we were chained to doing it the old way. We are able to cover a lot of ground with a small team. The format makes us way more efficient.”
De Rosa says they mainly operate as desk reporters, contacting primary sources to verify information and citing other news outlets once comfortable their information is verified.
“Our stories evolve over time, we don't write something and forget it,” he says. “A story may get a bunch of updates over a few weeks, go silent for a month or two, and then get a huge update we've been waiting for.”
Stay tuned for more customizations options besides push notifications, and those to do with images and sharing on social media. “We plan to launch a fully formed website to follow the news as well as an iPad app,” he says.