Is Facebook gunning to be the ultimate media consumption powerhouse? With its latest updates it would appear so. After acquiring online conversations startup Branch (which is popular among media professionals) and launching Trending for News Feed, it seems Facebook has pivoted toward a new goal of helping users find the latest, most interesting content even beyond what their friends post to the network. Today Facebook announced a news reader app that only strengthens this argument.
Following rumors regarding a Flipboard-style news reader for mobile, Facebook has officially announced Paper. Paper is a mobile news reader app that allows users to explore rich media from their News Feed and media outlets alike.
Opening the app will bring you to your News Feed where you can find text, photo and video updates from friends, all viewable in fullscreen mode. Tilting your phone lets you view high-res, panoramic photos in detail, and intuitive swiping motions allow you to view more stories and open others. Swiping upwards on a cover photo flips the story open so you can read it in its entirety. Like on the Facebook mobile app, photo albums appear as vertical stories you can scroll through, and you can like and comment on, as well as share, posts.
Paper as News Reader
Besides letting you explore your News Feed in new ways, Paper allows you to choose additional sections to add to your reader. Unlike with RSS reader apps, Paper does not allow you to choose exactly which sources to receive content from. Rather, you can choose from topics like Headlines, Planet, Creators, Flavor and LOL, which Facebook stocks with relevant content from established publications and “emerging voices” alike. To subscribe to a section, drag it into your Paper into whichever position you’d like it to appear. To view content in different sections, just swipe through your sections’ cover photos.
Changing the Way We Publish Content
In addition to consuming the latest stories from friends and the media, you can also create your own stories with text, photos and video. This is where things get interesting. Similar to the new popular blogging site Medium, as you create a post you will know exactly what it will look like when published through a live preview. And with Paper making it both enticing and easy to read longform text content, it’s possible that, if Paper takes on, longform stories will become more popular on Facebook, which could change the way people and media outlets publish to the platform.
Another aspect of Paper that could change the way people publish media is the way Paper handles videos. Interesting, videos autoplay full-screen in Paper, but in portrait mode. With large, landscape-oriented screens the norm for online video consumption, will news outlets begin catering to the vertically-oriented Paper screen? It depends whether media outlets find engagement on Paper to be valuable, which is still an unknown.
Facebook claims that Paper is designed to be “distraction-free,” and its demo of Paper shows no sign of ads. Down the line, however, I see native advertising becoming a source of revenue for Paper.
Paper is the first product created by Facebook Creative Labs, where Facebook is developing “new apps to support the diverse ways people want to connect and share.” Paper will be available for the iPhone in the U.S. on February 3.
Tour Paper here.