Photo: Kevin Smith/Business Insider
In a world full of news readers like Flipboard, Google Currents, Pulse, and Prismatic, is there really any more room on your home screen for another one?Circa believes there is—and not just because the iPhone 5 added an extra row of apps.
Circa News is the self-proclaimed “best way to the the news on your phone.” It’s backed by Ben Huh, the CEO of Cheezburger Network, a group of sites better known for funny captions on cat photos.
The news reading app, which debuted yesterday is aiming to fix problems with how mobile users interact with news.
Circa has an interesting take on how it presents the news to its users. Unlike most news sites and readers, which take articles written for the Web (or worse, print) and reformat them for mobile devices, its content is “born on mobile.”
Each day the service’s 16-person editorial staff curates what it believes is the most relevant news. The editors take stories that in original form might take seven scrolls to get through and write them up as single-screen briefs or transform them into simple charts.
While the app is beautifully designed and easy to navigate, we believe it is missing something: personalisation. Right now, there’s no way to sort out news that is of no interest to an individual user.
We asked Circa CEO Matt Galligan about the genesis of the app and what’s coming next. Here’s a lightly edited transcript of that conversation.
Business Insider: Where did the idea for Circa come from?
Matt Galligan: The idea came out of frustration more than anything. I’m a product guy that likes to solve problems. When I see a problem I want to go after it. Reading news on my phone, on the go, seemed like a tedious task. Rather than let the status quo continue, we thought of Circa, a new approach.
BI: What is Circa’s primary goal?
MG: Circa’s goal is to make it so that news is easy to stay in touch with on the go. It used to be that we would consume a newspaper for 40 minutes a day but now that people are much more mobile its gotten really low on the priority list. We think Circa can provide a compelling experience.
BI: Tell us more about the editorial curation process. What goes on behind the scenes?
MG: We have 12 editors working on the news at any given time all around the world. It’s the first of its kind.
Our editorial process is such that we have a completely custom back-end, the first of its kind. It allows us to produce news in it and it doesn’t resemble a modern CMS or anything like that. An editor can create a story, cite their sources, and even update it over time.
BI: What makes you all different from the competition—Flipboard, Prismatic, etc.?
MG: I love all those other news readers. But Circa isn’t trying to make the existing content better looking on the devices, we’re actually trying to fundamentally change the content itself. No matter how you look at it, all the other news apps still take you to articles and that’s what’s broken. Those apps aren’t broken but it’s not exactly conducive to the phone. It’s not conducive to reading on the phone because the content tends to be too long. But I am an avid user of those apps they just have a different use case.
BI: Who is the target audience for Circa?
MG: Right now, I would say Circa’s target audience is people that are interested in news, but maybe feel jaded about the way they’re currently handing it.
BI: What are your favourite features of the app?
MG: It’s about two things, following stories and related stories. Following stories is interesting because I don’t have to stay proactive, I don’t have to constantly check back to see if a story has been updated. Simply tap the follow button and Circa keeps me up to date.
Related stories are a neat feature as well. On a point by point basis, Circa is able to direct me to stories that allow me to dive deeper. It acts kind of like a Wikipedia, where you can almost lose yourself in the data.
BI: Any plans for an Android app?
MG: Right now we aren’t in active development for Android, but there is interest. We only have so many resources right now.
BI: What’s the vision for Circa? Where do you see it in six months to a year?
MG: We’re trying to produce news in a fundamentally new way. I hope that this format catches on. I see us on a number of different devices and different types of coverage. I hope Circa starts a trend. Our articles are absolutely important and I think that journalism as an industry, I would want to see it survive, I just feel like sometimes we have to adapt.
After you sign up for an account, users are guided through a few screens that describe the app and what it is about.
Here's a story that's more our speed. After tapping on it from the selection of stories we're in. If we want to keep up to date with the story, we can tap the plus icon in the top right corner and it will keep us informed on updates and changes.
The app informs us of the best way to read stories using Circa. Each story is a collection of points. The points are very easily digestible and alongside them are high-resolution graphics.
Once you follow a story, it stays in a list where it's easy to get to again. Tap the top left icon to get to a few settings.
The settings portion of the app contains your followed stories. It also gives access to Circa's two current has two categories, its top stories and the Election 2012. That's Circa. We can't wait to see what it does over time, for now we think its worth checking out, you may learn something interesting.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.