Quick thoughts as Circa shuts down

The news has broken – Circa is essentially shutting down.

While I haven’t been with Circa for the last 10 months, I was its first editorial hire and Chief Content Officer for almost three years. I am proud of all the work I did there and the editorial team I put together. I’d go to battle with them any day.

In early 2012, when I joined, mobile was still pretty uncharted territory. Circa was a pioneer. Discussions around structured journalism were nascent and ‘cards,’ ‘stacks’ or any ‘atomization’ as summarization/curation wasn’t even a thing. The idea of “following” a story was untested. This was even before the resurgence of the morning email newsletters. We offered a reading experience that was unique, innovative and despite its smooth surface veneer required deep editorial thought and expertise.

Some recognized Circa for what it was (or at least how I saw it: A product that made a statement about how things could be different). I still think product as cultural critique is an important role for a startup to play. That’s not to say Circa didn’t have its haters from day one (even more-so at the end). The schadenfreude in our industry is thick and disgusting at times. People love to read tea-leaves. This is a whole other tangent that we can/should confront as a community sometime.

I’m never one to shy away from moments of failure (cheap plug for a talk at ONA 2015 I am hosting “Fail Fest: I failed. It sucked. But here’s how I bounced back.”). But I’ve also learned that critical distance and hindsight from a failure helps put it in 20/20. I think I have that for Circa. But in respect to any ongoing conversations about Circa (to which I am not privy) – I want to reserve some thoughts for the time being except to say:

Timing is everything.

Circa was early and influential in a scene. There was a moment where the “iron was hot” and Circa was a hot commodity. There are a few key things that should have taken place during that time. They weren’t and as the metaphorical metal cooled the best that could be done was forming dents instead of angular shapes (to extend that analogy).

And now the space is very different. Other news apps have their versions of the “follow.” Conversations around push notifications have matured. And major players like Apple, Twitter and Facebook are going into the original curation space.

I have tons of thoughts on Circa, what it did better than anyone else. What it didn’t do well enough to survive. But I’ll save those for a conversation over a beer (you’re buying, right!?!).

I will say this: My hat is off to all who made Circa possible. The editorial team I worked with was top notch. I learned a ton leading you all. It was my privilege. And of course – Ben Huh, Matt Galligan and Arsenio Santos, it was truly an honor. I can’t express how much I learned working with you. More importantly – how much I enjoyed it. A startup has emotional highs and lows, but there was no other team I’d rather have gone through all that with. I loved every day and I know we made a difference. For that, I am in your debt.

And with that. There is really nothing to say except……….


p.s. Here’s a beautiful song……. but the video below always felt somehow like the artistic/video equivalent of atomized news. Each snippet is intoxicating – hard to turn away from. And even without knowing it – they add up to something greater than the sum of their parts.

Also – this Neiman post is one of the best Post-Circa posts out there.

7 thoughts on “Quick thoughts as Circa shuts down”

  1. When Circa came out I was teaching the Business and Future of Journalism course to a bunch of seniors at ASU. I turned them on to it and they LOVED it. They thought it was made for them. And then the space heated up. For a while, the brass ring went to the algorithmic curation tools, but I think it’s all coming back around FWIW.

  2. “There are a few key things that should have taken place during that time.”

    Would love for you to unpack that. If it’s not stuff you care to discuss in public, then maybe over that beer 🙂

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