In January, everyone from mobile marketing managers to the average social network user was salivating at the announcement of Facebook’s long-awaited Paper app. Essentially an artistic rendering of the News Feed, it allows members to share and discover new content in a purpose-built environment.
It looks good. More importantly, it could be just what Facebook needs as it weathers criticism surrounding the presentation of its one million plus advertisers’ content. In the wake of the recent high-profile, high-cost WhatsApp purchase, Paper is a boon to Facebook’s reputation as a creator (rather than a buyer) of quality products.
The app was created entirely in-house, albeit under the Creative Labs banner which promises to develop and deliver small-scale projects to see how well they go down with Facebook’s 1.25 billion users. Initially conceived to improve the oft-criticized aesthetic of the social network, Zuckerberg hoped Paper would make his behemoth a sleeker, more attractive prospect, somewhat akin to the web versions of newspapers.
In reality, it’s probably just a clever way of content into the existing app. Ads are yet to be launched on Paper, but they are surely inevitable, and any long-term mobile marketing strategy will have one eye on the app’s progress during 2014.
Paper organizes news stories according to topic and engagement level. In doing so, it has introduced external content into the site – something Facebook always resisted. Users can even relegate their own feed to the bottom of the pile, turning their app into another news source. Stories are displayed via colored cards with custom fonts and designs, each geared towards replicating – or at least approximating - the appearance of the original source publication.
This potential for ‘friend demotion’ signals a new dawn for the company, one in which the emphasis on promoting activity between contacts is reduced. Facebook insists the goal is to “put content first”, and for now, that means a clean, utilitarian, ad free news app. Enjoy it while it lasts – and have a mobile marketing strategy ready to go when Paper is prized open to advertisers.