Facebook wants to move into the world of newspapers. They are set to release Paper, which is a news reader app designed for iOS. Once released, full screen articles will be delivered, curated by humans and algorithms alike. Besides articles, people will also be able to see pictures. It will provide various categories, including LOL, Tech and Pop Culture. When released in February, it will first only be available to people in this country. The release date is set for February 3rd, one day before Facebook turns 10.
Facebook Creative Labs is the developer of Paper and this is their first initiative. They want to conquer the world of mobile Internet by creating various standalone apps, so that people do not have to filter through their usual Facebook app to get to the information they want.
Some visuals were released when the intention to create Paper was first developed. The details are absolutely fascinating and people were on the edge of their seats to find out more. Finally, Facebook has made the launch official in a blog post, which shows the vision video and a full feature tour. Zuckerberg has made it clear that he wants Facebook to become the newspaper of the modern age.
What Paper Will Look Like
When Paper is downloaded, you will see a reimagined interface that looks somewhat similar to your News feed. The screen is divided in two parts, with the top part showing big videos and photos. The bottom shows link stories and status updates. To browse through the stories, users can just swipe left and right. When they choose one they want to read, they simply tap on it. This will lead to a full screen animation with an auto-play video feature. By pinching the story, it folds back up and the Paper Feed is revealed once again.
It is also incredibly interactive, as users can add “sections,” thereby creating their own Paper. Some of the sections that can be added include Headlines (world news), Score (sports), Planet (earth and sustainability), Cute (Buzzfeed information), Flavor (food), Exposure (photography) and Ideas (intellectual theme that changes every day).
With the sections, the human editors who work at Facebook will place a range of content. This will be taken from public Facebook posts, which are picked up by the Paper algorithm. The goal is not to advertise the world’s biggest papers. Rather, it is an opportunity to get up-to-date information from sources from around the world. Additionally, it looks like users will be able to personalize each of the sections, so they can even indicate which pieces of news they want and don’t want to learn more about.
Furthermore, users will be able to share their own stories. The composer focuses on the visuals, which means that users can see exactly what their story will look like if someone else reads it. Hence, you know exactly where you text and photos will be and what they will look like.
The paper will, at least initially, be completely free from advertisements. However, the team is looking into how they could integrate advertisements in a natural manner.
Serendipity of Content
Paper will be run through curation done by both machines and humans. This creates real serendipity. Usually, when Facebook is opened, users only see the posts of Pages they have a subscription to, as well as people. However, in a paper, people will usually find lots of stories that they may not have looked for themselves, but still find really interesting. A paper reader trusts the editor of the paper, in other words.
With Facebook, editorial decisions about what members see are made not by a journalist, but an algorithm that determines which items are likely to be of greatest interest to each person. This may concern the traditional journalism community, but even some media experts acknowledge that Facebook appears to be able to deliver more of what people want to see, in an efficient way.
Facebook wants to be this editor. They want to surprise people with information that is relevant to them. Hopefully, this will also lead to additional Likes on the pages that the information came from. This allows for additional shares and creates a mutually beneficial arrangement.
According to Facebook, Paper won’t be promoted very heavily in its regular apps. However, if it takes off, it will be in direct competition with Prismatic, Flipboard, Pulse and Circa. Each of these has its own strength. For instance, Flipboard is all about user curation. Prismatic, on the other hand, uses algorithms to provide relevant articles only. Because Facebook has data on what people are interested in, and they have the resources to combine both human and algorithm information, they may just be better than anything that is out there at this times. However, Facebook has already delivered other standalone apps, like Poke and Camera, and these simply haven’t taken off.
The Vision for Paper
The Paper team currently consists of 15 people. They have spend a year to create the app. Chris Cox, the VP of Facebook, started this project. He received Zuckerberg’s full support. Management of the product is done by Michael Reckhow and the designer is Mike Matas. It is hoped that Paper will be boosted by the strength of Facebook – a fast movement that shakes the status quo, be that for the good or the bad.
It’s a serious issue not just for journalists or the media but for society as a whole to have “our free speech standards, our reporting tools and publishing rules set by unaccountable software companies.” Although these platforms often say they are in favor of free speech and other principles, as Twitter does, at the end of the day they are profit-oriented public companies who must pursue certain ends in order to generate revenue.
If successful, Paper could lead to lots of public sharing. Many people would love to be recognized and receive thousands of likes. As a result, content creators could suddenly move away from Twitter and focus solely on Facebook, leading to significant problems for the other major social media network. The Internet is a huge place, but Paper could, if managed properly, turn the entire thing in an easy to read newspaper.