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Circa iPhone crop
Circa’s app before the company shut down in June.

Circa is making a comeback.

The news app that shut down operations this past June after failing to raise funding is being re-launched under new ownership.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Sinclair Broadcast Corp., a publicly-traded company based in Maryland, acquired Circa and has hired a former Washington Times executive to help start a new version of the app.

Sinclair is putting some firepower behind the revamped Circa and plans to hire 70 journalists, the Journal reported, while also utilizing video feeds from the 172 television stations it runs across 81 U.S. markets.

Circa launched in 2012 as an online journalism startup co-founded by former Seattle-based Cheezburger Network CEO Ben Huh. The goal was to redefine news presentation for mobile devices with apps for Android and iOS, innovating the way readers received updates on breaking news stories.

Circa didn’t post full-length articles like in newspapers or on websites. Instead, the editorial team aggregated the top stories and broke them down into “atomic units of news” that users could swipe through — anything from news facts, background info, photos, quotes, videos, etc. To find out more, users would scroll down to find more “units” that provided more in-depth information on a given topic.

Beyond smartphones, Circa even launched a version of its app for the Apple Watch. At its peak, the app counted 300,000 unique mobile users.

John Solomon.
John Solomon.

“In a short period of time, we pioneered the use of atomized content to deliver news, ushered in a wholly new way of staying in touch with news stories over time through our story follow-ability, and proved that a small, scrappy team could go toe-to-toe with the news giants, if even for a modest audience,” co-founder and CEO Matt Galligan wrote in a post on Medium when Circa closed.

Circa, which raised around $5 million and employed 20 when it stopped operations, had been in acquisition talks this summer as it struggled to raise investment. Ultimately it was Sinclair that paid $800,000 for Circa’s intellectual property and technology in August, according to a press release issued this week.

On Twitter, Galligan noted that none of the folks on Circa’s original team are involved with the new operation. He also did not describe this as a “re-launch” even though Sinclair describes it as so.

The new Circa will re-launch this spring and will operate as an independent organization with offices in Washington D.C. and Seattle, and news bureaus in New York and Los Angeles. John Solomon, the former Washington Times vice president for content and business development, will lead Circa as its chief creative officer. 

“Delivering original news content on mobile platforms is becoming increasingly important, especially in engaging the next generation of news readers who value raw content, differing perspectives and personalization,” Solomon said in a statement. “Circa’s focus will be on issues trending from around the country, delivered in an independent-minded style, with a heavy focus on short and long form video, optimized for mobile and social media engagement.”

Sinclair, meanwhile, calls itself the “largest and one of the most diversified television broadcasting companies in the country.” The company has been involved in a series of apparent politically-motivated programming decisions that sparked controversy. The Wall Street Journal quoted a Sinclair exec who noted that “the Vices and Voxes of the world, they tend to be far-left,” leaving a “big need in the center.”

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