Does Facebook look good on paper?

As Facebook makes its first foray into the mobile aggregation apps world with Paper Suz Koch looks at what it is, and how it will work.

Facebook Paper is the first application from their Creative Labs. Currently it is only  ‘available’ in the US, but there is a nifty little hack that can gain you access.

At its core, Paper is a news aggregation application that pulls in content based on your own Facebook connections, combined with content curated by Facebook’s editorial team (yes, they have human editors now!).

Suz Koch

Suz Koch

It’s slick – incredibly slick. The UX is far in advance of anything Facebook has released previously and they have cleverly made use of off-screen space through tilt motion to support larger, high res images. It is a really nice app to use and as the hype video focuses so heavily on this aspect, it is obviously an important part of the strategy.

What are our initial thoughts and why could Paper be important? This is Facebook’s first genuine bid into the real-time content market, repositioning itself as a news source, whilst leaving the original social networking platform to continue with its primary function – connecting people to the things and people that matter the most to them.

By reimagining the platform in a new environment, Facebook has avoided the normal outrage it receives when making design changes to the core platform – something for which I am very thankful as I am not sure I can take the outpouring of indignant rage from yet another Facebook design tweak. Paper is a proper stab by Facebook at the mobile market.

What other considerations need to be taken into account? If you currently use a news aggregation app then this will be nothing new – you will likely miss the ability to integrate other news sources such as Twitter or RSS into your feed. Whilst there are different content sections such as ‘Headline’, ‘Tech’ or ‘Flavor’, unless you want to report content for being uninteresting – and this is a fairly cumbersome process – you will not be able to optimise the relevance of content as you can on similar apps such as Flipboard or Prismatic.

Not only is Paper currently only available in the US, Facebook has only released it for iOS, leaving the Android crowd grumbling about being left out. This also speaks to how preliminary this product release is. As Facebook is smart enough not to exclude over 50 per cent of the US smartphone market, you can expect tweaks before it is released to the wider population.

Load time for links is atrocious, however as we in Australia are not meant to have access to Paper at this time, assume this drawback is a location issue.

Whilst responsive design and mobile optimization have been important issues for some time, some sites within a desktop format will not load within this environment. If you are not already optimized for mobile then your content will not be seen on Paper.

Ultimately what Paper does is nothing new. But what it does for Facebook is. In their bid to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive space, Paper appears to be a strong and well thought out product. Once Paper is released locally it will be interesting to see whether there are local editors, how they will roll out ad units and sponsored content, and what impact this has for marketers. Until then, enjoy your swiping and flipping and reading.

Suz Koch is a senior account manager at We Are Social in Australia


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