It’s one thing to make the assessment that the delivery system of how people get their news is broken. It’s quite another when you actually build something that addresses the broken elements, and offers a better solution.
Circa, a mobile news app available on iOS (and now) Android is such a solution. And today it relaunches with a brand new look and feel that’s designed to make news more easily digestible, yet dynamic enough to offer you additional information without wasting your time. (Personally, I fell in love with it on a wi-fi-less flight back to Austin, Texas months ago after discovering that Circa automatically uploaded its top stories for consumption without an internet connection, which is not something it advertises to my knowledge.)
In its latest update, Circa brings users a crisp new user interface design that more or less breaks down a news article into smaller, digestible pieces. Pieces of information are arranged by importance, and followed by expanded explanations, photos, interactive maps, and suggestions for related content. But one of the biggest changes to this version is the addition of a new breaking news notification system.
“[The process of] breaking news has been broken for a while, and no one has really done anything to fix it in a long time,” Circa cofounder and CEO Matt Galligan said in an interview with VentureBeat. He added that, in the past, the largest emphasis on breaking news for a publication was to grab page views, not make the information presentable and easy to understand for the reader — something I think many of us in the news business would wholeheartedly agree with.
Unlike other organizations known for breaking news (such as the Associated Press), Circa’s updates will hit your mobile device as they become available via notifications. Once you get a notification on Circa, you have a flexible level of control over which updates you’d like on a particular storyline, too. This is different from the standard breaking news updates that alert you to an initial story, then leave you hanging when you navigate to the story page. Then, once that story is updated, its up to the reader to navigate back to that page to check for new information.
Another thing worth noting about the new updates? The startup hired Grammy-nominated composer and electronic musician BT to develop the notification sounds, (which I haven’t heard yet).
What I find most intriguing is Circa’s approach to adding to a story it has already been following. Galligan said his team — an all-star lineup of news industry editors and contributors — doesn’t have to waste time re-covering a story with relevant background details and only a few bits and pieces of new information.
“A lot of times we’ve already written the story, so all we really have to do is attach the update to it and make the entire storyline available,” he said.
As for montetizing Circa, Galligan said there are a few options. The first and most obvious would be in pushing out advertising, but only if it both resonates with readers and is relevant to the content. Another option would be to license out Circa to other news organizations looking for a better, more engaging way to deliver breaking news.
Founded in 2012, the San Francisco, Calif. based startup has previously raised $2.4 million in seed funding from Quotidian Ventures, Lerer Ventures, Dave Morin, Matt Mullenweg, David Karp, Gary Vaynerchuk, and others. The new apps are available today for free via the Apple App Store and the Google Play App Store.