Circa on Thursday released version 2.0 of its mobile news reading app with a focus on breaking news and an app for Android users. First launched on iOS a year ago, Circa is designed to serve as a daily brief of top stories, condensed into bullet points for quick reading on mobile devices.
"We want to make news easy to consume, like Cliff Notes," said Matt Galligan, co-founder and CEO of Circa. "We don't summarize. We take stories and break them into core elements -- facts, statistics, videos and images -- and add context to certain points. Rather than a long narrative, we offer a series of points that you can get through in seconds rather than minutes."
Circa's breaking news notifications are like a live blog of essential information, with each new, relevant item pushed to subscriber devices. Galligan believes that Circa has a speed advantage over other news sites and apps delivering breaking news content, and less noise than Twitter.
Rather than just sending a headline, Circa editors create a "stub" with the basic points of the story. Users can "follow" stories to receive automated updates, adding new elements to stories as they evolve without rehashing what has been previously written. "We want to confirm and push these things to users on a point-by-point basis," Galligan said.
Circa also wants to break news, or at least be among the first of the news aggregators and filters to break news. Galligan said that Circa beat Fox News and CNN with the news that kidnapper Ariel Castro had hung himself while incarcerated, based on a breaking news report from the NBC TV affiliate in Cleveland. In addition, Circa is planning to do original reporting, rather than just curating content from other sources.
Circa has only 10 writers covering the world, working in shifts around the clock and adding points or contextual edits to 100 stories a day, Galligan said. The editors rely on about 30 primary sources to digest stories in a series of chronological bullet points.
Galligan maintains that Circa's editors are performing a different function than editors at sites that basically refactor a story from a single source with a link back to the original work. "We identify the core facts across multiple sources, and write them up," Galligan said. "We don't rewrite any one story. If a story is from a single source or exclusive, we acknowledge that in the point."
Circa also tries to play it down the middle. "We keep tone and opinion out of it. The readers have a right to be informed, not influenced. We are the brief, but we want to be able to send people in the right direction," Galligan said during an interview Tuesday at the Launch conference. However, the new version of Circa includes links to other sources, offering opinion and analysis, that its editors deem worthy to expand the story.
It's unclear at this point whether Circa is catching on with news junkies, or if synthesizing chunks of stories from other sources can turn mobile users away from Twitter, Flipboard, and other aggregators. Galligan would not share the number of active users or app downloads, but allowed that half of Circa users come to the app twice day, and 50 percent of users stay active on the app after three months.
So far, Circa is building its audience and hasn't address monetization, but the company is considering native advertising and display ads, as well as a premium version of the service. The startup has received about $1.7 million in angel funding.