Circa, a mobile app that delivers news summaries to users, announced on Tuesday the hiring of Anthony De Rosa as its editor-in-chief. Since 2011, Mr. De Rosa has served as the social-media editor at Thomson Reuters, helping the company build its presence across networks such as Twitter as well as compile and share information on social media during breaking-news events. He's also written a column for Reuters.
San Francisco-based Circa, which launched last fall, provides mobile users with summaries of news events that a team of editorial staffers compiles from third-party reports. Mr. De Rosa will be based in New York. We wanted to find out a bit more about what he'll bring to the startup, so Mr. De Rosa agreed to answer a few questions (via email) about what he has planned for Circa once he starts in mid-June.
Advertising Age: In the announcement of your hire, you said there's a "huge opportunity to present news in a way that's made for mobile." What is the ideal way to present news in a mobile format?
Anthony De Rosa: On mobile you need to be succinct. People aren't reading 3,000-word articles on their phone. I want to tell them what they need to know, when they need to know it, and give them the option to follow the stories that have high importance, with options on what that means to the individual. We want to be the go-to place for news on mobile; that means we need to format [it] in a way that's quick and a real pleasure to use and look at. Design and formatting is very important to us. We want this to be a beautiful app on top of being informative and timely.
Ad Age: Which news apps do you admire, besides Circa?
Mr. De Rosa: BreakingNews.com has a fantastic mobile app. Push alerts are so key and they're extremely timely. They're really the only other app I can think of that's close to [Circa] at the moment. I think Reuters designed a really nice app with the recent refresh. I love how you can swipe an article on the Reuters app and be taken to a specific stream. Those are the kind of things you need to think about with mobile that's native to the platform.
Ad Age: Under your leadership, how will the Circa editorial team evolve? Do you imagine a time when Circa is breaking news or providing original commentary?
Mr. De Rosa: I want to evolve into being able to do our own original reporting but we need to think about how to scale that with a small team. It's a goal of mine and I intend that we make that a part of what we're doing. There's a balance between looking at reports that are out there, vetting it independently and going out and uncovering something on our own. We're in the first few innings. We will get to the point where we are breaking our own news. It's a matter of time.
Ad Age: What is the benefit of Circa over a similar app such as Summly, which Yahoo acquired for $30 million in March, that uses an algorithm to compile news summaries?
Mr. De Rosa: We're approaching this differently. There are a lot of folks who think you can do this all with an algorithm but you need that human element -- the role of the editor is still extremely important. We can automate some of the tasks of filtering out the noise when we're doing our own news gathering, but you need a trained editor to separate fact from fiction.
Ad Age: Jumping from social-media editor to an editor-in-chief isn't a typical move. How has being a social-media editor prepared you for the job of EIC at Circa?
Mr. De Rosa: I've assumed many of the roles entailed in the new role and working at Reuters is a huge benefit of absorbing what colleagues know from years of experience. [Thomson Reuters editors] Ken Li and Bobby MacMillian have taught me a lot, and working with various people in the newsroom from editors and executives on down to deskers allowed me to understand how everything fits together. Reuters is a juggernaut and being able to navigate your way through the various parts of the newsroom and learning how to manage massive live event coverage like Sandy and Newtown put me in a position to have to learn what it means to be an editor overseeing a large number of people, even if they're not reporting to me directly. I think being thrown into that role many times gives me the ability to move into this new one.