Since Circa launched in January 2012, a handful of mobile apps
have arisen looking to serve up news bites for on-the-go
consumption. This year alone Yahoo introduced its New Digest app,
and Internet entrepreneur Jason Calacanis has rolled out
Inside.com, which condenses stories to 300-character morsels.
Then there are the mobile news aggregators like Flipboard and
Facebook's Paper that aim to become the mobile version of a
newspaper's front page. But aside from Flipboard -- which acquired
rival Zite from CNN last week -- none yet generate any revenue or
have courted advertisers.
Circa is developing two types of ads: magazine-style full-screen
banners, like Flipboard, and sponsored posts like you might find on
BuzzFeed, The New York Times, The Atlantic and seemingly everyone else. As
with those, sponsored posts, which look and feel like editorial,
would be created by a separate staff.
"Once we find a flagship [advertiser], then we'll go out there
with it," Mr. Galligan said, noting that the technology to power
the ads "is pretty much in place."
Tablet, desktop versions
This year Circa will roll out an iPad app and a full-fledged
desktop site that will primarily mirror the smartphone app. People
can already check out Circa stories on their desktop web browser by
clicking links that Circa tweets out, but they cannot access the
full content feed.
Circa isn't only looking at ways to expand distribution on
owned-and-operated properties. Mr. Galligan and team have spent the
past six months working ways to make stories embeddable on others'
sites, like tweets or YouTube videos. "I think an entire story
could be embedded," he said.
The first question any advertiser is giong to as is: how many
users? On that, Mr. Galligan isn't talking (at least to us), though
he said monthly users had doubled in the last three months. One man
has taken advantage of the app's ability to "follow," or receive
notifications when a story is updated, to keep track of 2,000
stories concurrently, Mr. Galligan said.
While ads will be Circa's first revenue stream, it won't be the
only one. One future revenue possibility would be licensing access
to Circa's article data to other publishers, Mr. Galligan said.
For example, a publisher could see which stories are the most
followed on Circa as an indication of what topics that publisher's
reporters should focus on. "Follow is probably one of the first
metrics that indicates interest around a story...A [Facebook] like
doesn't express intent. The shit you read doesn't even express
intent anymore," he said.
It will take time for the revenue streams to grow to the point
of sustaining the business. In the meantime, Mr. Galligan plans to
raise another funding round this year.
Circa has raised $3.4 million to date from investors to support
its 11 editorial employees and 6 product employees, and Mr.
Galligan plans to nearly double his company's headcount by the end
of the year.