Eric Johnson

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Circa Launches on Android, Adds Breaking-News Alerts to Notifications

circa1The mobile news-reading app Circa is now available on Android and getting a features tune-up on iOS, its creators announced today.

Circa debuted almost a year ago on Apple devices, and is structured around factoids called “atomic units of news.” These units may be plucked from one story and dropped into another in lieu of traditional context paragraphs like, er, this one. Readers who “follow” a story get notified of new facts as they’re added to that story.

That’s all still true, but now Circa is getting more aggressive about having an earlier role in the breaking-news cycle. While the old app only sent push notifications for stories readers had elected to follow, the new app will also push out breaking stories, encouraging more frequent use of the app and following of topics, since the meat of each story will still be unfolding.

According to a company press release, when readers open one of these notifications, they will see whatever information is new to them first, “and the rest of the storyline below.” That storyline is constructed by Circa’s human editors, who place the factoids in descending order of importance, or the “inverted pyramid” in journalist-speak.

CEO Matt Galligan said in an email interview that, according to numbers provided by Flurry, Circa users currently spend 50 percent longer in the app than they do in other news apps. Among users who open the app more than once in a day, he added, more than half return twice.

Galligan declined to disclose download numbers. According to Onavo Insights, in the past two months, the Circa News app has ping-ponged between the 30s and the 130s in the download rankings for the News section of the U.S. App Store.

The hope is that adding breaking-news alerts will bring the app’s user retention up some more. Since Circa is free, it’s possible that better engagement will lay the groundwork for either ads or — as AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher suggested back in April — maybe an acquisition.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald