Matt Galligan is the CEO of Circa, a San Francisco-based company developing a way to repurpose news for the mobile age, starting with the iPhone. While he won’t reveal usage numbers, he says that a significant number of users come back to the system days and weeks later. “More than half of them will be back even in two to three months’ time,” he says. Moreover, on iTunes, the product has thousands of ratings, and still has a 5-star rating. “We haven’t dipped below that since January, other than one day when we had a glitch,” he says. “Our customers are very loyal and very happy.” We recently spoke with him about his company and how it’s deconstructing the news.
Tell us a bit about your organization and what it’s trying to do.
We’re trying to address news for mobile consumption. We’re able to create a new way to produce news and consume news, specifically with smartphones first. That’s the short gist.
The longer story is that news is typically produced in an article format. On phones, for current affairs and headlines, there’s a better way to present news that’s more succinct. I’m not talking about summaries, but making it so that news can be followed over time, so readers can follow individual stories and get updates as they progress over time. It makes the news far more consumable on a mobile phone in minutes, rather than in reading long, lengthy articles that might take some time to get through.
How do you simplify the news enough to fit it on a phone?
“Simplification” is a misnomer. What we’re doing is atomization, where we break the news into its core elements, with just the facts and the facts alone. The idea is that when a news story surfaces that we would like to cover, we identify the core details and surface those. It’s not a simplification; we’re just surfacing the most important details, and removing conjecture, bias, transition language — things that don’t get to the core of a story — and highlighting those things.
A 500-word story might boil down to five key points. An article can be boiled down to 10 to 20 percent of the number of words by focusing on the facts. It’s a manual process. We have developed software that makes it easy to produce this kind of news for our writers. They identify the story, collect the facts, write the story, and publish them.
What’s the next step?
Circa news is available on for the iPhone and iPod Touch right now. We also allow our stories to be shared socially. When someone shares a story on Twitter or Facebook, you come to a website. We don’t have a full-blown web experience yet where you can browse. Fairly soon, we’ll launch Circa News 2, on iPhone and Android devices. Later on this year, we’ll have a more established website.
We haven’t focused on monetization. We’re doing very bold, very new things with the way news is consumed. We want to make sure it’s what consumers want. The monetization side will trickle in in the near future. We have opportunities for subscriptions, advertising, affiliates, and partners.
At some point in time, we will be investigating opportunities with tools to produce news. Getting this tool in the hands of other news producers is another opportunity for us. We’re the only ones producing news in this way.
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