You can “meet” Circa’s editors here. Yes, behind every Circa storyline are human editors. So why don’t we attach a byline? It’s an excellent question that is asked from time to time. The absence of bylines is not oversight, but a conscious decision that merits explanation.
Who “Owns” the Story
Circa stories exist over a period of time, constantly morphing, updating and evolving. While some stories stay in the news for a day – others persist for weeks. Take the storyline on Ed Snowden who is (as of writing this) in hiding presumably in Hong Kong. This story has already been updated several times – each by a different editor. I suspect when this story comes to a natural rest (although no story is ever truly “finished”) at least half the team will have contributed to it. It’s rare for a Circa story to be “owned” by any individual editor – and the cooperative nature of Circa stories makes bylines impractical.
Aside from the impracticality of listing every hand that touches a story, there is something to be said about Circa wanting a “team effort” towards coverage. Circa is bucking the trend in the content world by going for a seemingly “objective” voice or what Jay Rosen might call a “voice from nowhere” (perhaps the subject of a later post). In short, the editorial expectations of Circa editors aren’t about pith, personality or some kind of brilliant opinion that masks as “analysis.” Our modus operandi is about being fair, thorough and precise. The absence of bylines is a constant reminder of the tone Circa wants to gravitate to.
“‘We haven’t done anything. We’ve kept the same, and everyone else has changed.’ In other words, The Economist is 160+ years old, and back then anonymity was the norm. Then the industry went on a slightly disturbing path toward writer celebrity, and we simply chose not to participate.”
Journalists are egomaniacs and protective about their own territory and their own work, and not having bylines mitigates against that somewhat. With bylines, you worry more about your own story. With no bylines, you worry more about the whole paper because your reputation depends on the reputation of the whole paper.
If each story created is like a journalist’s baby – at Circa you never know who will be taking care of it next. This is at the heart of our cooperative model. Everyone feels responsible for every story that is moving. We watch each other’s backs and make sure we’re putting forward the best each of us can because we don’t want to let our fellow editors down. Oorah!
In The Future
Is it possible we will have bylines in the future? Certainly. Nothing is off the table. But for the moment – we don’t think anything would be gained in the reading experience. We will remain transparent about who our editors are. We will continue to cite every fact in an effort to earn a reader’s trust.
Last September, Gideon Lichfield wrote a post on a new phenomenology of news he wanted to try with Quartz. The thrust of it: No more beats — Quartz would have “obsessions” that it would cover…obsessively. The reason:
“Beats aren’t so much an objective taxonomy as a convenient management tool devised for an old technology…So instead of fixed beats, we structure our newsroom around an ever-evolving collection of phenomena — the patterns, trends and seismic shifts that are shaping the world our readers live in.” [emphasis added]
The really interesting “phenomena” are called “wicked problems” which lack a single “beat” to define them. Global warming, the war on terror, gun control. These are wicked problems.
I want to pull the thread of a “phenomenology of news” from Circa’s perspective, where that last phrase, “shaping the world,” becomes important.
If the goal of the news is to make sense of the world — then we must “model” the shape of the world with our stories. I would argue many traditional tools and processes reflect the world, but don’t model it. What is this distinction, and how does Circa get there? It starts with this mantra: At Circa we don’t write articles, we create storylines.
In the 7 months since Circa launched we’ve grown by leaps and bounds. On the editorial front we brought in Nicholas Deleon as our lead technology editor and our editorial team, which spans the globe from Beijing to San Francisco, has coalesced while covering everything from Hurricane Sandy, and the government sequester to the Boston Marathon bombings.
Today Circa is excited to announce another important step in our progress. Anthony De Rosa, most recently Reuters’ Social Media Editor, is joining the team as Editor in Chief in mid-June.
At Reuters Anthony helped integrate the “ambient wire” that exists on social networks into Reuters platforms. He trained the newsroom to find leads and sources on social media and utilized live blogs to deliver a constant flow of updates on breaking news, which led to receiving Reuters “Best Storytelling Innovation” award in 2011. He was also host of Reuters TV’s “Tech Tonic” and a Reuters columnist.
In his own words about why he is joining Circa:
There’s a huge opportunity to present news in a way that’s made for mobile. Nobody is thinking about this more than Circa and I’m thrilled to help move that mission forward. Matt and David have a proven record of success and I feel like we have a shared vision for transforming the traditional article format.
I first became aware of Circa in its early incarnation as The Moby Dick project. It captured my attention because it hit on so many things I knew were wrong about the way we still continue to present and produce news. Seeing those ideas distilled into Circa was very exciting. There are many other elements of the Moby Dick project that I hope we can implement as well that continue to move us in the direction of creating the ideal presentation for news.
Circa is going to continue to push forward in the coming months. We are hard at work on version 2.0 of our iPhone app, and an Android version to be released in Q3 2013. In addition to technology – Circa is a news organization. Anthony brings the right mix of journalism know-how and tech-savvy to help the Circa editorial team continue to push the boundaries of the traditional article format. Our goal remains the same – to create the best news reading experience in a mobile setting. Anthony will be joining David Cohn, the Director of News and 11 contributing editors in mid-June.
Please join us in giving Anthony a warm welcome to the team!
In July of 2009 David Weinberger, an Internet scholar, wrote “transparency is the new objectivity.”
Compare an Encyclopedia from 1970 and Wikipedia today. The earlier work obtained authority from its “objectivity.” If you play the “how do we know this” game with the 1970 encyclopedia, everything boils down to the idea that the authors are experts and are objective in their writing. Wikipedia, on the other hand, gets authority from the transparency behind every edit. If you play the “how do we know this” game while reading any entry, you can peer into that page’s history and observe the edits to understand how the final content was produced. It is in answering the “how do we know this” question that transparency is the new objectivity.
At Circa we have an editorial policy: Every fact, quote, statistic, image or event in every story gets a citation. You can find these yourself by clicking the (i) button in any story. In stories that develop over time, which is where Circa shines, you may come across several dozen citations for one story. The reason we have a 100% citation policy is to answer the “how do we know this” question for readers. We want to be completely transparent about what we are basing our information on. “How do we know this” – just click the (i) button to find out. The look and feel of how citations work may change in the future, but that policy is at the heart of what we do.
Circa editors have used all kinds of sources. These include news articles, Tweets (especially for quotes), scanned documents or reports, primary source legislative documents, first-person blog posts and more. We don’t believe everything we read online. But if you see a link used as a citation in a Circa story – it means an editor made a decision to include something in a story based on that link and they want you to be able to answer the question “how did they know this.”
Another reason we cite so rigorously is to recognize the work of others and provide a way for readers to dive deeper into a story. No media company is an island. And linking is a form of acknowledging the bonds that tie. For many stories there is no true “owner.” Nobody had the “scoop” when the Supreme Court gave a ruling on health care. Nobody “unearths” the information when SpaceX does a shuttle launch. But if we believe a piece of reporting stands out and helped bring information to light - then we will often call out the source of information in the text. Soon we will also begin to call out “further reading” at the end of Circa stories – our recommendations for articles on the web which tackle the same topic as the Circa story you just finished.
Every unit of news is cited. We believe this isn’t just important for the reader, we believe this is different. In terms of telling a story, we keep a detailed bread crumb trail of links to empower readers to question every bit of information they consume. When you pick up a newspaper or magazine, we encourage you to play the “how do they know this” game. We believe asking this question with traditional news sources and those more like Circa will increase one’s media literacy and critical thinking. This is not to say you shouldn’t trust an organization that doesn’t cite another source available online. Our point is merely to show that the basis of that trust falls on the belief that the writer(s) are truthful and “objective” to the best of their ability. We do not ask you to make that leap of faith for Circa. We point to the citations we trust and allow you to judge for yourself.
Interesting stories deserve to be shared! That’s why we’ve spent the last few weeks completely overhauling our sharing interface. With this release sharing is easier, faster, and more powerful than ever before.
We’ve had a lot of great feedback about our sharing experience ever since the app launched. We’ve taken all of that feedback and built a completely new sharing interface. Above you’ll see what our new sharing pop-up consists of – sharing entire stories, or just specific quotes, images, etc., social sharing, iMessage/text sharing, and of course Email. The social sharing screen has also undergone a massive redesign, which you can see above and on the right. We now pre-fill the text for you so it’s easier than ever to share.
Most apps we’ve seen have very simple social sharing controls – just tap the account button and you’re done. But unfortunately making it that simple means you lose a lot of potential customization with how you’d like your privacy to be respected, or what account it gets shared from. So we decided to get away from the one-size-fits-all approach.
We were met with the challenge of creating an interface that is very simple for everyday sharers, but had powerful options hidden beneath the surface if you chose to customize more. Tapping the Facebook or Twitter icons works just as you’d expect – tap it and it activates. But should you chose to get more specific with your sharing options, just tap the gear on the far right. That will present you with network-specific controls. That means that with Facebook you’ll be able to customize the privacy of that specific shared post, and with Twitter which account you’re sharing to. In the future, as we add more networks, we’ll continue to respect the various options those networks provide their users.
It’s been a long-time coming, but we’re excited that today we’ve made our Technology news category live. For the last few weeks our Lead Technology Editor, Nicholas Deleon, has been heading up this category and cranking out technology stories within Circa to a beta group of readers. We’ve had some awesome feedback on it so far, so it’s time to make it live for everyone! There tends to be a whole lot of noise out there in the tech news world, so we wanted to provide a super simple place to get the big stories quickly. Nicholas has been doing a great job, and we’re excited to see where this category goes.
We’ve had so much amazing feedback over the last few months that while we can’t thank everyone individually right here, we can at least throw out a big THANK YOU to those that have written, tweeted, emailed, etc. We couldn’t do this without your feedback. If you’ve got any thoughts you’d like to send our way, just send it over to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Haven’t got Circa yet? Download it for free at the App Store.
For the past few weeks, we’ve been hard at work on our first major release of 2013, Circa News 1.1. We’ve introduced some new features in previous versions, as well as tackled some bug fixes, but 1.1 is our first major post-launch release and we couldn’t be more excited. Circa News 1.1 should be available in the App Store within a matter of hours. Here’s some of the things that we’ve been busy with:
We’ve gone over every pixel with a fine toothed comb. The entire app’s design has been cleaned up and we think it looks great! Below is a series of screenshots depicting some of the changes we’ve made.
It’s a bit subtle of a change, but we’ve parted ways with our good friend Livory as the typeface we use within the app. Livory is a beautiful font (in fact, it’s the basis of the Circa logo), but not the most readable when it’s smaller. It also tends to be a bit overly decorative. With 1.1, we’ve replaced Livory with Meta Serif OT and the result has been fantastic. Not only is it a far more readable font, but it’s also a bit more compressed, so overall readability and speed improve with this change. One other subtle change is that we’ve removed Helvetica Neue (the default Apple font in iOS) and replaced it with Adobe’s beautiful typeface called Source Sans Pro.
We’ve also cleaned up the design of the category menu quite a bit as you see above. This change is to make room for further plans we have for the menu.
Another big change we’ve made to the interface is replacing our previous “featured story” with a carousel-like marquee. It’s a small but important change – this new design allows us to promote multiple stories at once. This is important for whenever there may be multiple big stories in the course of a day. Or perhaps there’s a story that’s big, but might occur over multiple days – the previous design didn’t allow for this, so we came up with a better solution. We’ll now be able to feature anywhere from just one to many stories at once. To top things off, it also really showcases some of the beautiful imagery we use for our stories.
This has been one of our most-requested features. Initially with our 1.0 we focused on pure social sharing, but it seems that quite a lot of people would still like to privately share stories they might find interesting. We listened, and now we’re delivering on our promise.
In previous versions of the app, it was sometimes hard to tell when it was refreshing. In addition to making the refresh experience faster, we’ve moved away from the refresh button and added pull to refresh, as well as an indicator to know when the app is refreshing if you just happen to be opening it. This may seem like a small update, but a lot of work went into making the refresh time less. For those that are curious and looking for the technical answer, we’ve consolidated what was previously a lot of calls to our servers upon refresh, to just a handful. This dramatically reduced the load time.
Simple and just as it sounds – readers wanted a way to navigate back to the main story list without having to hit the “back” button. Thus, we added a simple gesture that allows you to swipe right on the screen and move back to the story list. While hidden gestures can sometimes be frustrating, we’ve found this one to be fairly intuitive and are happy with the result.
Our readers have shown us just how much they love following stories (a lot), but we also needed some better ways to manage the stories once you’ve followed them. Thus, we’ve added the ability to mass-mark unread story updates as read, as well as easily swipe in the “My Followed Story” list to unfollow them.
First things first, we’ve worked very hard to make the app run better/faster in general. We’ve dramatically reduced the time that it takes to refresh the app, which has been a big improvement. One other change we’ve made is in how the app handles images – we now use just one image for the thumbnail, and story image preview. This has shown to be a massive improvement in load times of story images throughout the app. Overall our work still isn’t done here – we’ll keep pushing forward to make the app function, as well as refresh, much faster.
We want to be as accommodating as possible with readers that would like to check out Circa. As such, we’ve begun to implement accessibility features that will allow readers with alternative needs when navigating and reading. We’ve got a way to go before the app is fully accessible, but with each update we’ll do as much as we can.
Lastly, we’ve done some work to reduce the footprint of the app as far as sheer file size is concerned. Additionally, we’ve reduced the cache size that the app uses to store images. This should have a positive impact when the app backs up to a computer or iCloud.
We’re just a few weeks in to 2013, but we have a whole lot of amazing plans for where we’re taking Circa this year. We’re already hard at work on some amazing new updates past 1.1 and can’t wait to get them to you.
In the meantime, if you’ve got any additional thoughts or feedback on 1.1 and beyond, please write us a note to support [at] cir.ca. Thanks!
Since our launch, only 8 weeks ago, the number one content request from readers has been to provide more technology news. Today we are happy to announce we’ve brought on Nicholas Deleon as the lead technology editor of Circa. Nicholas brings a wealth of experience as a TechCrunch alumni and most recently as Deputy Technology Editor at The Daily.
We are excited about the possibilities of covering the technology industry in a new way, taking advantage of our follow feature to provide added value for readers. You can expect more great technology stories and as well as a dedicated technology section in early 2013.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be joining Circa as Lead Technology Editor.” said Deleon. “Matt and his team have already built something very special, and it’s a complete honor for me to help start the company’s technology coverage. Here’s to bringing news to the mobile era!”
We are excited to have Nicholas join the team as we disrupt the way news is delivered. Keep your eye out for more technology news coming soon!
We’re just a few weeks out of what we considered to be a pretty stellar launch! TechCrunch said we’ll change the way people read news, The Verge says the app is slick, and even readers like Dustin Farivar are doing their own write-ups. To top it all off, Circa was featured as Apple’s Editors’ Choice just one week after our launch. All in all, the word is out and people are loving the app.
So now we’re looking to build onto our already fantastic team. We’re looking to bring on an Operations Engineer, an additional Android developer, and a designer that would focus exclusively on Android. We’re also still on the hunt for a Lead Technology Editor to head up our new Tech category we’ll be launching soon.
Operations Engineer – Apply Here
Circa’s Operations Engineer will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of a full stack of scalable services, from web indexing and visualization to an API for the real-time delivery of content and metadata.
Android Engineer – Apply Here
Circa’s Android Engineer will be responsible for developing and maintaining our Android mobile applications.
UI Designer, Android – Apply Here
Circa’s Android Designer will be responsible for conceptualizing and creating intuitive, engaging, and brand-consistent mobile experiences on Android devices.
Lead Technology Editor – Apply Here
Circa’s Lead Technology Editor will be responsible for managing a team, and writing on a wide breadth of technology news from big topics like privacy, piracy, patents to small moving targets like gadgets, earnings and events.
Additionally, you can also view our full careers page if you’d like to keep up with what positions we’re hiring for on a regular basis.
At Circa we believe in bringing you the “essence” of a story. We strip out conjecture, bias and flowery writing. There is a lot of noise on election day and we hope the value that Circa provides is just signal. If you haven’t downloaded the app yet, you can find it available for free for the iPhone and iPod touch in the App Store.
Today’s a big day for news, and the story of the 2012 US Election on Circa begins with what we call in editorial, a “main branch.” This story currently only has 7 points. It actually won’t be “updated” that often throughout the day. You should still follow the story so you can find it easily – but all the “update action” will occur in the stories we link to at the bottom of points called out as “related stories.” Think of this story as the trunk of a tree and as a reader you can choose your own adventure. Do you want to follow the Electoral College map or are you more interested in just knowing what the candidates are up to? Or maybe you want to follow how voting goes in the Northeast. Maybe all three? That call is up to you.
1. Exit Polls: Before the official tallies comes in exit polls do. Get a sense of how the election is shaping up through your fix of exit polls here.
2. How the states vote: This story is all about the presidential election and the quest for 270 electoral college votes.
3. Races and control in the Congress/Senate: There are races taking place all across the country for House and Senate seats. At stake is also partisan control and what kind of House/Senate the next president will work with. Follow results around this important aspect of government through this story.
4. Initiatives: While the presidential and congressional candidates battle away, another battle as expensive and polarizing is taking place at the local level. This Tuesday voters will decide on 174 ballot propositions across 37 states ranging in topics from gay marriage to campaign finance reform.
5. Voter fraud and intimidation doesn’t start on election day, but some of the most audacious reports come in on the Tuesday if presidential elections.
6. Directly related to voter fraud and intimidation will be the story of voting in the Northeast in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. The election can’t be put on hold and the states are doing what they can to tackle logistical roadblocks to a smooth voting process. Throughout the day we will follow stories of where voting is thrown off by Mother Nature.
7. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have been gunning to continue or take seat as the President of the United States, arguably for two years. This Tuesday is the last day of that journey and you can follow their story, from when they vote to the final concession of one candidate.
Each of these stories also have “bridges” or related stories that go into more detail. There is almost a cascading fashion of following the election on Circa and with each choice you drill down into a more detailed version of the story. You can follow the initiatives results, but you can also click into the “related story” that gives background on the initiative itself. Folks that have been following that story since it was first posted will also get alerts once the results come in, bringing everything to a full loop.
Of course – we may add another big “branch” to the main story of the election, an 8th point above. There is no telling what could happen. We certainly weren’t planning on watching the logistical measures of the Northeast voting process until last week, but that’s how the news works and it’s Circa’s job to find the most important stories and cut right to the chase to keep you informed.
In a recent blog post a Circa reader, Cap Watkins, noted something about our app that is at the heart of our philosophy to producing news.
With Circa, we’re finally seeing editorialized news delivery. Instead of just pulling RSS feeds from major news outlets and providing link lists, the folks at Circa take the time to curate and distill content. The result is a broad list of topics, each containing a limited number of bite-sized facts and information. The innovation here feels very obvious: Circa realized that if you want to go broad with your content, the display of that content needs to be shallow and digest-able, with the option to dive deeper.
Without a doubt there is an abundance of information on the web and a plethora of mobile readers. One response to the information overload has been to provide lists of links that take you to articles or provide summaries of the news.
We do neither of these.
It’s true, our content is concise, to the point and we provide links back to our sources. But Circa stories aren’t summaries. Indeed, stories can never be summaries – and we believe in stories.
We’ve talked about the building blocks of Circa stories, but let’s take one step back. Why stories at all? Why not just write a summary of each news article?
We feel it would be deficient. And we use that word carefully. It’s not that summaries would be bad – but “deficient” (“lacking in some necessary quality or element.”)
Stories are living – especially Circa stories. They can branch and morph. If you follow our stories on Hurricane Sandy you’ll see this happen. Our goal is to express the ongoing story that is unfolding in the world in digestible chunks. We feel it would be deficient to graze over Sandy, a storm that could impact millions of lives across the East Coast, with a summary.
Summaries aren’t alive. They are more or less static and reflective only of the article they are summarizing. If you read two summaries of similar articles you’d still suffer the fate of news amnesia – two good summaries about Hurricane Sandy probably repeat themselves.
More important than the problem of repetition is that of scope. By its very nature a summary is a birds eye view of one article. But often it’s the subtle details in an article or the nuance across several sources that make a story come to life. This is how a reader gets informed. This is how a storyteller creates an experience.
Take Circa’s story about the recent New York child stabbings. The story made the front page of both the New York Times and LA Times among others. We broke down the story into the basic facts, quotes and images but we added one extra fact – something that many of the other stories didn’t and the readers that noticed it – appreciated it.
“Another New York family was devastated by a stabbing the same night, but their case got much less attention. Firefighters tackling an apartment fire in the lower-income Kingsbridge section of the Bronx found a 32-year-old woman dead in a bathroom under a mattress that apparently had been set on fire; she’d been stabbed. An infant found in the bathtub was declared dead at a hospital.”
It was just one fact, but we added it to provide context about a story that seemed to grip the nation that morning – a similar crime occurred elsewhere in a less affluent neighborhood and nobody seemed to batt an eye. If we just went with a summary of the child stabbing, this fact never would have made the cut.
Because the unit of adding to a Circa story is precise, we are able to add the details that make a story pop. When discussing the split between the popular vote and electoral college we can easily call out the four other times it happened in history including the most recent (Al Gore v. George Bush) and what the difference was in the popular vote. Then we can zoom back in to quote a 2004 Barack Obama who criticized the electoral college process and whip back to 2012 for a quote from a GOP political strategist. Summaries skip past these details – but often it’s the extra statistic that somebody didn’t know which makes a story stick or the human voice in a quote that raises an eyebrow. The ability to zoom into the minute details of human life and zoom back out for the big picture can only occur if you are telling a story.
In short it comes down to “an experience.” It’s a word used earlier in the post – but one that we come back to over and over again. Learning about the world shouldn’t be a chore. It also shouldn’t be mindless. It should be an experience.