Feature

Media: Facebook’s groundbreaking news app

Facebook is taking on the news business.

Facebook is taking on the news business, said Dieter Bohn in TheVerge.com. The social networking giant is rolling out a new, stand-alone iPhone app called Paper. But it’s “much more than just a news-reading app—it’s a complete reimagining of Facebook itself.” Paper starts with the regular Facebook News Feed and “re-creates it as an immersive, horizontally scrolling set of screens.” The new app relies on touch gestures “to make every status update, photo, and news story appear full-screen.” Paper will give users a more leisurely browsing experience, but news junkies might find some flaws. Links to news stories “are automatically turned into small, Twitter-esque media cards with branding from the publication.” Unlike full-featured news apps, Paper doesn’t download the content for offline reading. And “you also can’t add any site you want, as with a traditional RSS reader.” Instead, Facebook has hired “content curators” to select stories for you in one of about a dozen categories “ranging from basic news to cute animals.”

This is just the beginning, said Julie Ask in Forbes.com. By creating Paper as a stand-alone app rather than a new feature bolted onto the flagship, Facebook is embracing today’s trend “toward more, smaller apps.” This approach works very well as long as developers “can afford to keep them up to date, market them, and drive consumer engagement”—all tasks that Facebook is surely equal to. There are good reasons to celebrate the rise of smaller, stand-alone apps. While websites are generally “designed to do everything possible,” mobile apps need “to anticipate my needs and be ready to serve me in that moment.” In this case, you “can instantly tell” that Facebook took “a mobile-first approach,” and others would be wise to emulate the company.

“Paper is exactly the kind of stand-alone” that Facebook needs to stay current, said Mat Honan in Wired.com. In recent months, other apps and services have threatened “to circumvent Facebook’s hoary old News Feed entirely by letting us communicate directly.” With apps such as Snapchat, Twitter, “and a hundred other icons on your home screen,” people began wondering whether they still needed Facebook. By focusing on “the stagecraft of beauty and elegance,” Facebook’s Paper app turns the service into something more than “a place for quick-hit updates and simple snapshots” and encourages you to “think of it as a place for stories about your life.”

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