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Dec. 7, 2015, 1:22 p.m.
Mobile & Apps
LINK: www.wsj.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Shan Wang   |   December 7, 2015

Chatter about Circa, the mobile-first content atomizer/news startup/UX idea generator that went on “indefinite hiatus” in June, resumed a few weeks ago when eagle-eyed Twitter users, several of them former Circa employees, noticed that circanews.com had been updated to say “Circa will be back soon…” The domain name was registered to Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Today, rumors have been confirmed: Circa is indeed returning, but it won’t be the Circa its users remember. According to Sinclair, the relaunched and redesigned Circa will be “an independent digital news site aimed at the new generation,” building on the “intellectual property and technology of Circa News.”

The release revealed that Sinclair acquired the technology for $800,000 in August (it had raised over $5 million from investors), and that at its peak, Circa News had 300,000 unique mobile users (a number it was reluctant to share throughout its three years of operation).

The new Circa will be helmed by John Solomon as chief creative officer. (Solomon comes to the new Circa from The Washington Times.) The news site will run original reporting and “user-generated content.” Its coverage will attempt to fill what Rob Weisbord, vice president and chief operating officer of Sinclair’s Digital Group, told The Wall Street Journal was a void in non-left-leaning news for young audiences. “When you look at the Vices and Voxes of the world, they tend to be far-left,” he said. (Sinclair has a reputation for leaning right.)

Solomon told the Journal he’ll be bringing on 70 journalists to the new Circa effort, and that his group will have access to video from the 172 Sinclair-owned TV stations around the U.S.

The Journal reports:

Under Sinclair, company executives say, Circa will be a bit more open-minded about its business model than in its previous iteration, in which it focused on so-called “native ads” and shunned off-the-shelf advertising formats. Mr. Solomon and Mr. Weisbord said native ads, documentary sponsorships and more traditional ad formats like pre-roll video advertising will all likely have a role to play, but the initial focus is to attract an audience. Circa’s first year operating budget will be “just under $10 million,” the company said.

Long term, Mr. Weisbord hopes to use Circa’s intellectual property in Europe to expand the digital brand internationally, he said.

‘We expect it to be as significant as Vice and Vox and BuzzFeed,’ he said. “They all went to broadcasting companies for investments. They want to expand into broadcasting. They started out as pure-play (digital) and they are now entering into our field. We are going the other way.”

In other words, it doesn’t sound like much about the new Circa will resemble the old Circa. The plans for the new news site have been met with not altogether unexpected skepticism.

But some were excited:

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