What you need to know about minimalist news app Circa

A new news app called Circa promises news “without the fluff, filler, or commentary.” With that in mind, here are what Circa calls the “essential points — facts, quotes, photos, and more” of some of the coverage of Circa’s launch.

• Circa believes news consumption on phones is all wrong. So it breaks down stories into minimalist morsels that fit on a mobile phone screen, with one to three sentences on each point, often with an image or a map. You can follow stories you like and get updates.

• “It’s almost as if Circa turns newsreading into a game, where you want to make sure you keep up with all of the latest developments,” Drew Olanoff writes in a rapturous review of Circa. “By bringing on actual journalists with an eye for news, Circa is able to fill the app with things people want to read, in a way that they can read it quickly and on the go. While I’m sitting and waiting for a train to the city or at the airport at my gate, I just want ‘the facts.’ ”

• “The main idea is that the traditional article or story format that newspapers and other news outlets have produced for so many years no longer fits with the way we produce or consume information now,” Mathew Ingram writes in a positive review of Circa, which he says “shows some of the most advanced thinking about not just the delivery of news but the way news stories are constructed, and that is refreshing.”

• “I think most of us would agree, an overabundance of long, in-depth articles is not the chief problem with journalism,” Sarah Lacey writes in a mixed review of Circa. Circa “may well solve a lot of the problems I have with staying informed on current events,” she writes. “I just disagree with the founders on what those problems are.”

• Circa “will give traditional media organizations heartburn,” John Herrman writes in a skeptical review of Circa, which he calls “aggregation without compromise.” The app “is here to say, ‘you’re doing it wrong.’ And then, in the same breath, ‘can we borrow some sugar?’ ”

• I’ve had limited time to play with Circa. I like how easy it is to scan headlines. As a brute force aggregator, it still has a little fluff, though: A map showing where Luxembourg is located, for instance, doesn’t move the peanut when I’m learning about EU representatives meeting there to discuss arms sales to Syria. I already know where Luxembourg is. (Also, the text below needs a copy edit.)

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  • http://blog.digidave.org/ digidave

    There are headlines. The headlines change based on the points we add. Not every point addition will merit a headline change – but that’s because somebody “following” the story will be directed right to the new point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=656715835 Andrew Beaujon

    Thanks so much for your comment, Matt.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=749911534 Anonymous

    I read about this yesterday here in Taiwan, via wire story in the print newspapers, and I am sorry to say to Matt, screens will NEvER replace real print paper newspaper reading. Call them snailpapers if you want, because our daily newspaper arrrive about 12 hours late when wire news has already hit the screens, BUT, Matt needs to know this, “screening” is not reading, it is merely skimming and scanning and it will NEvEr replace reading the real thing. In fact, current MRi and PET brain scan research is slowly revealing that reading on paper is superior for 3 thingsL info processing, info retention and info analysis, aka critical analysis. Alal Matt’s work, cool as it is, is for naught. Wake up, Matt. Newspapers can never be replaced as the real thing. Screening is conveinent and useful but it aint reading.

  • http://twitter.com/dancow Dan Nguyen

    I think Circa is going to hit the same scaling roadblocks that come with any service that tries to curate any kind of content. However, it already suffers from a functional drawback compared to traditional news: no headlines. So instead of getting an inverted pyramid story with beginning and conclusion, we’re getting lots of disconnected text paragraphs in which we have to read the entire 30-40 words in order to get the actual “fact” described. How is that going to be more convenient to the average reader, nevermind how to convince them to fit a new news app into their casual news reading flow?

  • http://mgalligan.com/ Matt Galigan

    Andrew, we really appreciate the writeup! One thing I want to call out though is your statement that we’re a “brute force aggregator.”

    1. “Traditional journalists” collects source material to produce an article. The journalists at Circa collect source material to produce a story (we don’t call it an article). We’re pulling information from the exact same resources traditional journalists have done for ages.
    2. “Traditional journalism” typically doesn’t cite every single source for the articles they write. I rarely read an article where every point has something to back it. Circa goes the step further and cites our sources.
    3. What we don’t outright do right now is a lot of original reporting – which I would consider to be things like direct interviews, sitting in a court room hearing, etc. We do, however do original reporting where we’re able to such as covering the live broadcast of the Presidential Debates.

    I just wanted to defend our stance that we’re not “stealing” content and we’re not a “brute force aggregator.” We research a topic, collect source information, and write bite-sized chunks that focus on the facts.

    Thanks again for the writeup!