We'll assign a lead to an editor and they'll begin to source information about that topic. Then, once they've gathered as much info as they can, they begin distilling that info into a coherent story and the points that make it up.
We're currently using a combination of our CMS, and a couple products called Trello (for story management) and HipChat (for communication) to make this process work. Though we're currently working on the next generation of the workflow by introducing everything into one tool we lovingly call "Newsroom" which is basically a wholly virtualized newsroom.
We do our best to work with only sources we believe are credible. We also don't publish rumor ...sometimes waiting till the last possible moment to run a specific fact. These sources might include wires, specific articles from various publications, tweets, etc. – but we always make sure that the source is credible before going through with writing it up. Ultimately because we're boiling things down to facts, writing it in our own language, and a lot of times munging multiple sources together to produce one fact, we're not beholden to a lot of copyright issues that plague "aggregators" (though I wouldn't call us an aggregator). However, we absolutely cite every source that contributes to a story...both to be a good citizen in journalism and send traffic elsewhere and to gain trust with our readers.
I do think that "breaking" stories has a future at Circa. But ultimately we want to make sure that we're able to confirm as much as possible. One advantage of Circa is that we know each point that a reader has seen. That way, if we ever find something that is factually inaccurate, we can reach back out to all of our readers and notify them of the change.
With that "correction" feature, we might be able to be more bleeding edge. Perhaps it could even be a user's preference.
Chris, that's an excellent question. We've come to believe that through atomizing, more structure can be added to a document. But unfortunately, long-form journalism is typically done in an "unstructured" format. It's possible that a tool might be created where you could highlight specific phrases to "atomize" the content, and allow for evolving those individual pieces over time. However, sometimes as a result the surrounding content might be impacted and therefore need to change.
One idea though could be that if you were to atomize a long-form document, that you "tag" certain phrases and paragraphs as having a level of importance and thereby allowing readers to pare up or down their appetite for the amount of content they read.
But I won't gloss over the fact that developing a system that is built for atomization wasn't easy. I'd predict it'd be even harder to develop one that might work for long-form journalism and unstructured documents.
We'd be fans of it though.
I think the biggest issue facing traditional news outlets in the transition to mobile is simply the length of the content. Mobile devices – specifically smartphones – are used in short bursts throughout the day. As a result, the best mobile experiences are ones that are tailored to that use case. Unfortunately the nature of articles means they're immersive experiences and therefore basically the opposite of what a mobile user expects.
Most traditional news outlets are producing news with the intent of it being read in print first, web second, mobile third. I'd argue that to really dive in on mobile, it would need to be the opposite way around – creating content with the intent of it being read on mobile-first. This is ultimately what we chose to do with Circa. We call it "mobile-first news". Clever, right?
But this isn't reserved for just written word. I'd love to see the New York Times do more with their amazing infographics, specifically in a mobile context.
We don't have any specific timeline associated with Android as we're still looking for a great developer that can work with us to make it a reality. It's hard to find a great engineer that's not only savvy with the technical side, but also a great cultural fit. I'm confident we'll find someone soon, and we'll dive as fast as we can into getting Android done.
It should be noted that our CTO's main device is an Android phone...so he's been waiting impatiently just like many other people. This will be a major focus of ours once we find the right fit with an engineer.
There's absolutely more that we can, and want to do on desktop. In fact, we've been working on a revamped web experience for the last few weeks now and hope to launch it sometime in the next few months. It'll take a bit of time before we fully replicate the mobile experience onto the web as well as mobile web, but it's something we'd love to get done sooner than later.
Just like how we focused on designing for mobile, there will be decisions that we can make differently on the web. We have a great attention to detail here at Circa and that will absolutely translate when moving to the web.
Jack, this is going to be a really interesting time going forward for journalists. I would argue there are two major areas that if I were in your shoes, I'd place my focus:
1. Try to pick up engineering. Journalism + tech will ultimately be a big place to win over the next few years, and anyone that truly understands both worlds will be in a great position to stand out amongst the crowd. Pair your writing talents with the ability to write some code and you've got a formula for success.
2. Learn to be a great hired gun. As traditional newsrooms begin to die off, more and more news outlets are going to go out looking for great people that can research, identify sources, and write, all without being attached to the typical process. I predict a day that newsrooms are at least 50% "guns for hire" and anyone that's ready for that transition will do well.
Quick programming note. We'll be wrapping this chat up soon, so submit your questions now if you haven't already!
I saw the product was featured by Apple in the App Store recently -- bet that helped generate a few downloads! Do you get any advance notice that something like that will happen?
We don't get any advance notice from Apple at all. It's a bit funny that way, but it's always very flattering when they feature something. One week after we launched we were that week's "Editors Pick" which is the highest regard Apple gives to an app in the App Store. It's always unexpected, but pleasing to see every time.
Right now we've been receiving an average of 20 "5 star" ratings to every 1 "4 star" rating, so that's something Apple pays attention to for sure.
We'll be sure to rate it after we finish here. Last question... On the App Store, Circa’s company name is listed as ‘Circa 1605, Inc.’ Any significance to that number?
Matt, thanks again for joining us today. Really interesting conversation.