We put a stake in the ground when we started Circa that the metric that would be one of our guiding principles is the “follow.” When a reader follows a storyline with Circa, it tells us they care enough about it that they want to enter into a direct relationship with it, and receive alerts when there’s something new as that specific storyline evolves.
All signs point to desktop news consumption falling further and mobile continuing to grow exponentially, and a unique aspect of using mobile devices is being able to get notified anywhere, anytime. This is both a gift and a curse. We’re now reaching a point of push notification saturation. Our solution is to put the choice in your hands and allow you to decide what’s important enough to push. You could say we have two main goals: to inform and to respect your time while doing it.
As we reach the end of our first full year in existence, we wanted to look back at which stories you decided were important enough to enter into that all important “follow” relationship with. These stories triggered some emotion or interest that caused a great number of you to want to be kept apprised of its development. They are Circa’s biggest stories of 2013 by the metric of ‘follow.”
This storyline could have easily been called “Groundhog’s Day” as we’ve seen this scenario play out before and will likely see it play out again in early 2014. Luckily, our format has the unique advantage of utilizing the history of this ongoing debate to put it all into context.
@circa has been perfect for following the government shenanigans.
— Jacob Moore (@jacobscottm) October 17, 2013
This was one of our first and perhaps defining “breaking news” events we covered in real-time. Previously, the 2012 election was the biggest event we covered but that was something we knew was coming and could plan for. This tested our skill at using the platform to show how we could rely on accuracy over speed. While many others wound up rushing to be first and wrong, we kept our readers up to date without sacrificing our reputation. We are proud to say nothing Circa pushed needed to be corrected later.
Perhaps the investigative scoop of the year. Circa has followed the saga of the Edward Snowden himself, now living in Russia, as well as the “Snowden effect,” the myriad of revelations Snowden leaked that has become public. It is a spider web of spying and state secrets, but because Circa shows how the storylines are all related, a reader can get context and understand the relationship between PRISM, XKEYSCORE, MUSCULAR, Britain’s role through their spy agency GCHQ and the impact everything is having on technology companies in the U.S. This is perhaps the most “clustered” group of storylines followed only by the group of stories following the Syrian civil war.
If you aren't following all this PRISM bullshit through @Circa app, you should. Excellent way to filter out the noise of news.
— Colin Raney (@colinraney) June 10, 2013
This was a story where we wound up doing a lot of primary, direct to source reporting. Our team went directly to the LAPD and to the LA County Coroner to verify information about the shooting to ensure our reporting was rock solid. In breaking news situations like these there’s often a rush to get information out quickly and rely too heavily on other news reports which can sometimes result in the “telephone game” as information either comes from unreliable sources or loses its veracity as it moves through several filters. While we watched most of this play out on social media as many others did, we used that information to inform ourselves but didn’t report what we saw until we could verify it independently. This was another example where we were careful and deliberate and didn’t need to correct information later while others were forced to retract.
It’s an environmental story with lessons for the whole world. It was in following news of the Japanese tsunami in March 2011 when Circa Co-founder Ben Huh first began to realize that “breaking news was broken.” The cleanup efforts of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster following the tsunami continues to this day, with the constant potential of serious radioactive contamination of the local environment. This storyline, along with our coverage of tsunami debris washing up on U.S. shores, are examples of how the follow feature has value almost three years after an initial event.
It was one of the world’s biggest weather events since Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. The storm enveloped Southeast Asia, with the Philippines bearing the brunt of the storm, the deadliest in the country’s history, leaving 5,719 killed in Haiyan’s wake. We covered the story for nearly a month, and continue to update on the recovery efforts. The residents there have a long way back to return to life before the storm, and we intend to track their journey all the way.
Perhaps the biggest tech story of the year was the seven year old social networking service, that changed the way many communicate, opening their company to public investment. After Facebook stumbled out of the gate of their own IPO, the NYSE which took the stock to market, sought to learn from their mistakes and were careful to ensure they could handle the large anticipated demand. Our tech editor Nicholas Deleon tracked this story all the way from the moment the company made it known their intentions to go public and explored all the angles of what made Twitter an attractive or risky investment, in the eyes of experts. The IPO event will stand alone, but we’ll continue to update as any new, major moments happen to the stock and company moving forward.
As exciting as Apple keynotes are, they also cause aggravation. Many people flee Twitter to avoid the repetitive nature of their stream as “Stenography Twitter” takes place and everyone repeats the same information just released. One of the many things Circa brings to the table is a way to cut through the noise and simply get what you need to know. We shined by updating our Apple keynote in real-time with just the facts around the new products and by following the story, you could even avoid the keynote entirely and still know exactly when a major moment happened during the event, allowing you to continue your day and be productive yet still be in the know.
In October when we launched Circa News 2 and included breaking news as a new feature, we had no idea how long it would take till the first truly “breaking” news story. Turns out it would be only three hours later when we learned there were shots fired outside of the U.S. Capitol building. Our staff quickly spun into gear, getting a breaking news alert out and simultaneously trying to make sense of what was going on. Nearly half of all readers to the storyline followed it, and received individual updates as they happened in real-time, culminating in no injuries, but one death – that of the shooter whom had a history with depression and mental illness.
We covered the bumpy rollout for the Healthcare.gov website from the moment it was unveiled and delivered all the investigation into what went wrong, along with primary source documents that showed how many anticipated the website would be unable to handle the demand but was released anyway. We’re now covering the effort to fix the issues as the government’s self-imposed deadline just passed on Nov 30th. We’ll continue to track how well the website holds up along with the fight over Obamacare itself among Republicans and Democrats.
While it wasn’t necessarily breaking news or even an example we’d have thought of, when Banksy set up shop in New York and began creating guerilla works of art there, the city and art lovers the world around were captivated. Each time Banksy put up a new work Circa had it covered in one singular evolving storyline, and anyone following it got a push notification about it.
Following Banksy through @circa is the best thing ever. The way news should behave. http://t.co/WSZebhpEXm
— Ivan Lajara (@ivanlajara) October 25, 2013
This one gets an honorable mention simply because it’s one of our favorite storylines here at Circa. We continue to enjoy covering the Mars Curiosity rover as it goes about its scientific mission on the red planet, with each and every new finding ending up as a point inside of this ever-evolving storyline. We love this story so much, the Mars Curiosity rover plays a starring role in our introduction walkthrough for new users.
Traditionally, media companies have been beholden to the pageview and only more recently they’ve started to say they’re more interested in unique visitors. The ad market is still less mature and thus relies almost exclusively on the pageview as currency. As always, at Circa we’ve set our sights higher and believe that ultimately mobile and “the follow” will win the day, and a big win for news readers.