Kara Swisher

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Circa’s Matt Galligan on Building a Different Kind of News Reader (Video)

Circalogo

Earlier this week, I went for a visit to the San Francisco HQ of Circa, the startup that always seems to get lumped into the mobile news reader aggregation category with others such as Pulse, Zite and Flipboard. While it shares some obvious similarities — there is no original news gathering going on here with all of them — the approach that it has taken is different and a bit more nifty.

Built currently for the Apple iPhone, the mobile-designed app is aimed at rejiggering how readers consume breaking news. To do this, a team of writers crunches and munches small bits of information about a range of current news events from a variety of sources and forms them into separable flashcard lists to make up a story.

Circa is using the odd phrase — “atomic units” — to describe the end product, which users can swipe through quickly to get the key elements of a story, along with adds of art, photos, maps or graphs. While some disparagingly call it a Cliff Notes for breaking news, it is much more like a television report or a just-the-facts feed from wires services. If you want to get even more digital, it reminds me of a smart and collated version of Twitter.

While it could use more sourcing — I like to know from whence my atomic units are born — it’s a still a good way to consume news on the fly on a smartphone. Users can also follow favorites stories, which are updated and which increases engagement.

I talked about it all with CEO Matt Galligan, one of Circa’s several founders, as well where the next version of the product is going (expect an Google Android and perhaps an tablet version, for example)

How Circa is going to make money is a good question — it has only a few million in seed funding — since it does require people to create the stories, rather than some algorithm. But the market is hot in the acquisition arena for this category. Both Pulse and Zite have been bought (LinkedIn and CNN), as well as the decidedly less substantive Summly (Yahoo picked it up for the excessive price of $30 million), so one could see Circa also getting snapped up at some point.

Until then or whatever news breaks on it, here’s my video interview with Galligan:


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