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The Facebook Times?

Posted 21 January 2014 9:00 PM by Chelsey Binkley

Paper: Facebook’s New Flipboard-Style News Reader
A few months ago, we posted a very informative (if I do say so myself) post about the rise of the visual platform. Months later, it seems that Facebook might be jumping on the bandwagon and taking it to a whole new level. Recent rumors indicate that Facebook is gearing up to launch a new service offering later this month: a mobile news-reader called “Paper.” Similar to Flipboard, Paper would act as an aggregator of rich media content in a visually stunning, paper-like format. It would display a mix of news stories aggregated from publications, along with status updates and stories shared by a user’s Facebook friends.

It is not quite clear yet if the new offering will be incorporated into Facebook’s existing services; however, rumors lead me to believe that it would be either a stand-alone mobile application or a Web experience best-suited for mobile devices. The attention on mobility is no surprise, as Facebook is consistently tapping into the mobile space to enhance its already massive user base and advertising model. (Facebook generates about a third of its revenue from mobile  [Source: Digital Trends].)

The new app enhances Facebook’s effort to bring more outside features into the social network, enticing users to spend more time on the site, and the news feed in particular. Paper’s all-encompassing user experience has us all wondering whether or not Facebook will become a veritable “Internet supermarket” — the one-stop shop where users can consume news, receive recommendations, chat with friends, and view attractive visual content. Will users be content with housing all of their online activity in one place? And will Facebook be able to lure Flipboard users away from their favored platform?

Brand Implications
While brands that are active on Flipboard might have immediate concerns about Paper, the prospect of losing readership to Facebook is not especially likely. Flipboard has been tremendously successful since it launched in 2010, garnering close to 90 million downloads on mobile devices and three million active daily users (Source: Inside Facebook). Users will likely stay with Flipboard simply out of habit, as it allows readers to select and follow their preferred sources, which often include more educated, serious content. It also appears that Paper will not allow users to choose which sources they wish to follow, disrupting the experience of browsing the content you want rather than just the content that is recommended for you.

Flipboard primarily aggregates niche content chosen by the user (technology, food, etc.), while the Facebook news feed has become a hotbed for memes, fill-in-the-blanks, and pictures of friends, weddings, and children. Should Paper become the news feed of choice for most people, it would target a vastly different audience than the typical Facebook user. The content in Paper will include more entertainment news, top headlines, and overly garish content. Flipboard, on the other hand, is focused on hard-hitting politics, environmental issues and the like, which aren’t easily found on the front page of Facebook.

Paper will have similarities to Flipboard, but will also likely become a more invasive experience, potentially littered with ads and robust privacy settings (see below for a quick comparison). This might force brands to increase their quality of content (and advertising) to be featured in users’ news feeds. The rumored update could have the greatest effect on popular brands and news networks; they may no longer have to post links to their articles on Facebook, because the rise of Paper allows their content to be instantly visible for the intended audience. 

While this launch is entirely speculative, it’s always a great idea to evaluate your brand’s content and relevancy to its fans


Flipboard Facebook Paper
Audience More mature users focused on streamlined content delivery Everyday Facebook users
Growth 3 million daily active users 727 million daily active Facebook users, on average, in 9/2013
Content Personalized content sources chosen by the user; often more serious subject matter (news, technology, science) Recommended content based on interests and behavior
Advertising Currently piloting magazine-style full-page advertising with a small group of publishers Likely to incorporate native paid advertising to elevate content within the Paper feed
 

Additional Resources

  • Rumor: Facebook Could Launch a Flipboard-Like Reader This Month: Gizmodo

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