Facebook Paper: Much More Than Your Average Newsreader

Today, just shy of the social network’s 10th birthday, the Facebook Paper app will hit the US. Paper, designed by the a”startup-esque” Facebook Creative Labs division of the company, is the first project to follow the vision for the company that Mark Zuckerberg outlined at last week’s sales call, promising to deliver more “stand-alone” mobile apps, instead of trying to cram everything into Facebook.

While socially-curated newsreaders are nothing new (see: Flipboard), Facebook Paper has a distinct advantage over competitors in the space, given its inherent billion-plus user base. That being said, other stand-alone apps developed by Facebook in the past, such as Camera, have failed to find much of an audience– so, I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.

Upon first glance, Facebook Paper looks much like your old FB Newsfeed on steroids; with giant images and videos taking up much of the top half of the screen, and status updates featured below. You can swipe through content shared by your Facebook friends– but, this is only the beginning. At the heart of Facebook Paper’s appeal are “Sections”, which the user can choose based on their interests. Sections available in the initial roll-out include stories for sports, foodies, photography, world news, business, and a Buzzfeed-like section for cute animals (awww….). Paper articles will be highly focused on images, while giving users the opportunity to comment and share to their own Facebook profile.

News articles featured in the various Sections of Facebook Paper will be curated by a mixture of algorithmic and human input. This is possibly the most compelling piece of the Paper puzzle. Given that reports have been abound recently of people, including content marketers, ditching Facebook for social networks like Twitter, Paper offers the opportunity for any blogger or casual writer to appear in a high-visibility format within a socially-curated platform. I, for one, would love to see some of my own blog posts hit the Business or News Sections of Paper, and I can only begin to imagine the possible reach that exposure could mean. 

It’s anyone’s guess as to how Facebook Paper will be received by the larger FB audience, but personally I think this is a move in the right direction for Zuck & Co. The Facebook brand needs to diversify to stay alive in this ever-changing social environment, and even if Paper isn’t the newsreader of the future, it is a glimpse into the segmentation possible with Facebook’s massive reach.

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