Circa's mobile news apps: Are news rewrites a business?

Summary:Circa has a great team and pedigree but it'll have to do more than just rewrite news stories if it is to survive in a tough media business.

Circateam (1 of 1)
Circa CEO Matt Galligan.

It's good to see that Circa is still plugging away with its iOS news app, which today is launched as version 2.0 and there's an Android app, too.

Dan Farber at sister site CNET

"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."

The startup is co-founded and co-funded by Ben Huh, owner of I Can Has Cheezburger and boasts a top notch staff of editors and writers.

The new Circa wants to excel at breaking stories:

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.

Foremski's Take: I like Circa and I like the team. But I don't like that the sources of its stories aren't readily revealed. (You can click on a tiny "i" to see sources.)

Mr. Galligan told Farber:

"We identify the core facts across multiple sources, and write them up." [...] "We don't rewrite any one story. If a story is from a single source or exclusive, we acknowledge that in the point."

In a Wired article by Cade Metz, Mr. Galligan says Circa is reinventing news in the image of open source software. I'm puzzled by this reference because open source software relies strictly on producing original code and then allowing others to use it provided they share what they add to it. Circa takes original news stories from others and uses it. Can others then use that Circa content as they use open software?

I like the way they present news stories in that you can see earlier story nuggets on the same subject, as a constant update. The personalization aspect is OK but it's not a have-to-have for me since I'm interested in serendipity. 

Overall, Circa doesn't add enough value on the news of the day. Rewriting news without taking the story further is a waste of a rewrite.

I have an idea how it could add a lot more value but in its present form, and with its fairly large re-write staff — and presumably expensive top-heavy hitters — the viability of the business has to be very tenuous at best given the revenue challenges all online news sites face. 

Its focus on mobile is nice but the opportunity of revenues from mobile ads, for example, is very poor. Matt Sanchez, co-founder of Say Media, recently warned that mobile ad revenues generate just 20% of desktop ads and that "Mobile is killing media."

Circa will have to come up with a plan that creates a lot more added value to the news or it'll hit a hard stop and it'll be a shame to not make the most of such a good team.

Topics: Mobility

About

In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to make a living as a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley.Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leadi... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.