The Circa Leaves Town

Co-founder and CEO of Circa, Matt Galligan, has confirmed that they are calling it a day. Having struggled for the last year to keep funding the project, he bids the Circa audience an emotional goodbye this week.

‘We have now reached a point where we’re no longer able to continue news production as-is. Our ongoing plan was to monetize Circa News through the building of a strategy we had spent a long time developing but unfortunately we were unable to close a significant investment prior to becoming resource constrained.’

Founded in 2011, Circa was amongst the first of a new wave of media outlets to focus on delivering news to mobile platforms with atomised content being used efficiently and creatively in multiple formats.

Joseph Lichterman at Nieman Lab describes Circa as having an ‘outsized influence’. In 2013 both the android and iOS versions of the Circa app were named best app of the year by Google and Apple, and while it appears that it’s audience never grew large enough to keep it afloat, the Circa model has been undeniably influential;

‘It’s never been clear how large of user base Circa had — they’ve never released user numbers, but in the post Galligan called its audience “modest” — but the app has had an outsized influence on how news organizations think about their mobile experiences. And while the app is now being eulogized on Twitter, its downfall underscores how difficult it can be for a news organization to build a useful product’.

The model isn’t without its critics however. Whilst the shift towards news becoming mobile seems beyond argument now (see Radar: The Reuters Digital News Report 2015 June 24th) others like Joshua Benton (also at Nieman Lab) argue that the ‘chunking’ of news content left it ‘voiceless and bland’.

‘Chopping up a story into bits risks draining all human voice from it. Think about how, say, The Economist and BuzzFeed would write up their takes on a given story. They’d be quite different, obviously, but they’d also be identifiably theirs. Circa stories are bland and sapped of personality — a CMS strategy confused with an editorial one. (For a back-and-forth Circa’s Anthony De Rosa and I had about this, including his defense of its “voiceless by design” approach, see this tweet and its replies). Combine that with the fact that Circa did basically no original reporting — only aggregating bits and pieces from other sources — and I never felt the need to read the Circa take on anything’.