Too Long; Didn’t Read. Those four words are a disease, slowly trying to kill off long-form content on the web. It’s the phrase that’s turning us all into jittery, impatient types with shorter attention spans than the Magpie-like Louis Walsh. There’s a good blog post on the phenomenon here, if you can be bothered.
But, hang on…Maybe the answer isn’t to dismiss TL;DR completely? After all, sometimes you’ve got to adapt to a given medium’s needs. That’s exactly the ethos being explored by new mobile news app Circa, which splices together both your urge to stop reading and look at something shiny after every 25 words, and a Facebook-style notification system.
Is it the mobile news of tomorrow?
Circa, which has just squeezed its way through the review process and onto the App Store, is an aggregator of sorts that allows users to ‘follow’ certain stories on their handsets. Once you’ve told Circa to keep a beady eye on some news, you’ll receive notifications every time a new detail is added.
And, in TL;DR style, those updates are minimal. Like, around about 30 words a pop. Or sometimes a new detail will be nothing more than a map, or a new picture, or a quote, all added on Siri-esque cards.
The idea is that each story is a carefully curated, preened entity that grows as details emerge – ensuring that nothing more than the bare essentials will ever have to imprint itself onto your retina ever again, you busy sort, you.
“A lot of publishers have been doing great things adapting their content for smartphones and tablets, and there are lots of cool aggregators for sorting through a ton of stories,” the app’s co-creator Matt Galligan explains. “But we didn’t feel there was a native mobile app built from the ground up with the goal of helping people consume news on the go.”
Crucially, this is a model built for mobile, where trawling through blocks of text is likely to make you walk into a lamppost, lose interest, or both. “We think a lot of the structure and style of traditional media reporting makes less sense on mobile,” says Galligan, almost trying to reassure journalists the world over that his algorithm hasn’t sounded the death knell for long-form editorial as a whole.
And that’s kind of the point: Circa’s not trying to hack away at news-making everywhere, just in your pocket, and it should probably be commended for doing as such – anything that helps people dip in and out of their mobile screens (rather than stay face deep in them) is ok by us.
TL;DR: There’s this new app that’s good for mobile news.