Nieman Foundation at Harvard
Newsonomics: Is Tronc about to go on the market?
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
June 24, 2015, 12:56 p.m.
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Joseph Lichterman   |   June 24, 2015

Circa is being put on “indefinite hiatus,” Matt Galligan, the CEO and co-founder of the mobile-first atomized news app wrote today in a post on Medium:

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. We could have compromised and included off-the-shelf advertisements or charged a subscription for the product but we never felt like any of the simplest solutions would pair well with the high-quality experience we wished to achieve, or even bring in enough to make a difference.

Circa last published new content on June 21, raising questions about what was to become of the app, which made its name on a variety of smart ideas about mobile news presentation.

Last week, Matthew Keys reported that Circa had been in talks with Daily Dot Media about potentially purchasing the company. In April, Fortune’s Dan Primack reported that the company was looking for a buyer. And last year, Ken Doctor reported that Circa was looking for $8 million in venture funding, following up on its initial $5.7 million in funding.

Though it appears that those talks were fruitless, Galligan said in his post that the company was “still working through an opportunity to keep the technology and spirit of Circa alive.” Still, Galligan said some of Circa’s employees had already found new jobs and encouraged other companies to consider hiring the rest.

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.

Last month, Joshua Benton argued here at the Lab that Circa never seemed to create a compelling editorial product that could attract a sizable audience:

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.)

Beyond the Medium post, Galligan said he wouldn’t be discussing the app’s demise any further in “the interest of continued negotiations around Circa.”

Show tags Show comments / Leave a comment
Join the 45,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Newsonomics: Is Tronc about to go on the market?
Even without the L.A. Times, it still controls a lot of important newspapers. Will it sell them to Gannett, Murdoch, local individuals in each city — or to yet another private equity firm looking to strip papers for parts?
“The Internet is telling you you’re pregnant, dying, or both.” Clue wants to do better.
“We’re thinking about our voice as an empathetic older sister who happens to be an OB-GYN.”
Holding algorithms (and the people behind them) accountable is still tricky, but doable
“We were able to demystify this black box, this algorithm that had very scary connotations, and break it down into what ended up being a very simple linear model.”