Android smartphone
Credit: Image by Johan Larsson on Flickr. Creative commons licence. Some rights reserved.
Mobile-first news app Circa, which publishes stories in "atomic units" rather than articles, has launched on Android and updated its iOS platform with breaking news notifications and more visual flexibility.

All users will now receive a push notification on their device when a large news story breaks and will be able to open zoomable images and maps included in articles "to get more context", said Matt Galligan, Circa's chief executive and co-founder.

"The thing that we've learned over the past year is it's not about the devices or apps," Galligan told Journalism.co.uk. "We are a mobile-native news company but mobile to us now means a mobile lifestyle.

"We wanted to get away from this being about the app. It's not [about that], it's about creating news for a new generation."

The updates build on the existing form of the app, which first launched a year ago, in letting users follow stories that interest them, subsequently receiving notifications as the story develops.

Updates average one or two sentences in length and are structured historically in terms of importance rather than chronology – in the classic "inverted pyramid" of news reporting – with the most important pieces of information first, said Galligan.

He explained that the need to add a breaking news element to Circa came from noticing user behaviour patterns during major news stories over the past year, such as the Sandy Hook shooting and Boston marathon bombing.

"We thought if we can push a notification to everyone in the app, alerting them that this is happening and then inviting them to follow these stories, then the amount of time and effort that they would have to go through to keep up with these stories would be gone," he said.

Galligan explained that, when it comes to breaking news, Circa could sit between the endless stream of unconfirmed reports on social media and the formalised articles of traditional news organisations by providing verified updates to a breaking news story as it happens.

"It's just the same as any other newsroom, we are a news organisation much like any other," he said. "The thing we have an advantage in is that we can run paragraphs, not just entire stories."

Where traditional news organisations wait until "x number of facts are confirmed" before publishing, Galligan said, Circa can publish the updates to readers as each piece of information is verified.

"Have you ever read Twitter backwards in a news event?," he asked. "That's the problem we're solving."

Circa launched a desktop version of the platform in September, designed to let users sign in and follow stories if they come across a social media link to a Circa story on desktop.

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