Last week, Facebook announced the launch of its new independent news app, called Paper. Now, this is not just a consolidated news application; it’s much, much more as it brings together stories from your newsfeed as well as from around the world.
This app is the brainchild of a special team, known as Facebook Creative Labs, working in hothouse conditions in order to foster innovation. As reported by TechCrunch, ‘Facebook Creative Labs will carry out a strategy to conquer mobile with an array of single-purpose experiences rather than cramming more functionality into Facebook’s core app’. This will allow Facebook users to experience the powers of the social networking site in different ways. For instance, we already have the original Facebook app and Facebook messenger, the latter which allows people to simply communicate with other, without the background noise of the newsfeed, event notifications etc.
Nevertheless, Paper offers a very different experience, reimagining your newsfeed into something more intuitive and consolidated. At present, a person can choose to see stories in their newsfeed from The Washington Post or The Guardian etc. by liking their page on the existing Facebook app. With Paper the process is less limiting, as a person can choose topics they are interested in, rather than specific sources, and be served relevant stories from different places around the web. USA Today commented that Facebook was directly challenging other news applications, saying that ‘Paper comes as a shot across the bow to Google’s News, Twitter, LinkedIn’s Pulse news reader and Flipboard’s magazine-like reader, among others’. Comparing Paper to one of the other magazine readers on the market, Flipboard offers a consolidated approach to news, designed as a mobile app but without the allure of an established social network. And while many of Flipboard’s features are comparable to the new Paper application, it also offers other, more bespoke possibilities to enhance the user experience. For instance, Flipboard allows people to curate their favourite stories into their own magazines on any topic imaginable. The magazines created by their readers, from Dali to End Trafficking, can then be shared and enjoyed on the Web by anyone, anywhere.
In terms of the functionality of Paper, the top half of the screen will show big photos and videos, while the bottom half will show status updates and links to stories. You can swipe from right to left to browse through these stories and if you tap one, it will unfold to take up the full screen, where videos can auto-play. You can then pinch a story and it will fold back up, returning you to the Paper feed.
Looking at this from an advertiser’s perspective, the success of Paper could very well reduce the number of people using the original Facebook application as well as challenging other big digital players such as Google. In terms of the original Facebook app, it is unclear whether this was a deliberate move by Facebook, to launch the new app and bring users around to the new user experience gradually, rather than launching it and killing the old app all at the same time. On the other hand, some commentators have speculated that damaging the old app is not intentional, more a means to diversity the Facebook experience. Overall, it may be that users start to prefer the uncluttered approach of Paper, especially as it includes the majority of functions that people use on a day to day basis, apart from the possibility of checking your Events calendar. This could impact advertising investment in the original Facebook Mobile app, effecting CPMs/CPVs and even the demographic of Facebook vs. Paper app users.
However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Paper app has just launched in the USA, and while initial feedback from users is positive, there are no current paid-for advertising opportunities. Once the app establishes itself though and launches across the world, it would not be surprisingly if Facebook chose to monetize its new service and cater to the advertising industry.