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Circa CEO Visits USC To Talk Mobile News

Will Federman |
November 12, 2013 | 10:39 p.m. PST

Tech Editor

Matt Galligan's Circa app will revolutionize how you read news in between stop lights. (Flickr/Andrew Mager)
Matt Galligan's Circa app will revolutionize how you read news in between stop lights. (Flickr/Andrew Mager)

No bylines. No inverted pyramid. Not the kind of journalism you might expect inside the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC.

But Matt Galligan, CEO and co-founder of Circa, says he's offering exactly the kind of mobile news consumers need. 

Galligan visited USC on Tuesday for a M{2e} Strategy Session to discuss Circa and its impact with a community of students and professionals. Constructed from the ground up in Silicon Valley, Circa "atomizes" breaking news by condensing information from longer articles into bite-size, essential story points aimed at mobile users.

The startup drew interest from industry spectators when it pried away Reuter's social-media editor, Anthony De Rosa, to serve as editor-in-chief last May. Circa's mobile newsroom is compromised of a "nimble" 10-man team that constantly updates and curates breaking news with a uniform style guide that eschews bylines. The team can crank out about 100 news stories per day using its in-house content production tools.

It's a model of efficiency that few outlets can emulate.

That's because the work flow environment behind Circa allows editors to quickly "atomize" news into story threads designed for mobile consumption. Since Circa can quickly update an existing story with just pocket-size morsels strung together by a common story thread, the startup can avoid the busy work of rewriting stories and other labor-intensive editorial duties that hinder most online publications.

The Circa app, available for both iOS and Android mobile devices, has the potential to disrupt the way media outlets deliver breaking news. Perhaps most impressive, Galligan's solution for inefficiency inherent to modern media organizations relies on human editors, not algorithms. This allows Circa to vet material that a machine cannot.

Last April, the budding newsroom faced its first, real editorial test when the Boston Marathon bombing occurred. Despite numerous factual inaccuracies disseminated by a wide range of mainstream media outlets, Galligan stated that Circa reported none.

"We don't publish what we don't know," said Galligan.

SEE ALSO: Boston Marathon Bombing: Facts And Fiction In Chaos

Galligan maintains that because Circa has a personal, "pocket-to-reader" relationship with its mobile users, it can afford a few minutes of lag time to allow the editorial team to verify information before pushing it out to followers.

Once a reader chooses to follow a particular story, they are notified the moment Circa updates the existing story with new material. That connection can be a lasting one, because stories never truly die in Circa's database.

But Circa, which is still reliant on content from outside news organizations, faces the same uphill battle as every upstart hoping to supplant traditional news sources. Without those sources, Circa does not have content to curate, but its popularity could inevitably lead to the collapse of those very spigots of information.

Galligan argues that is a "common criticism" from journalists and one he feels is misplaced. If such fears ever materialize, Galligan asserts that it will be "years from now" and that the media landscape is wide enough to allow Circa to mature. 

Nevertheless, Circa has already begun its own independent content creation. When the LAX shooting transpired earlier this month, Circa's newsroom actually conducted its own investigations.

Galligan's next mission is to cultivate the Circa brand and develop ways to monetize content so the mobile app can sell advertising without sacrificing editorial integrity. The loquacious CEO believes transactional ads are "detrimental to the integrity of news" and create a skewed "value chain" not sustainable in the online media space. 

In the meantime, Circa will march forward with incremental updates, offering support for tablets and embedded audio and video in the not too distant future. All the while, online editors will toil away on stories that can be condensed to a handful of characters and quickly consumed by smartphone users in the bathroom.

Thus is the Circa of life.


Reach editor Will Federman here or tweet him at @wfederman.



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