Amid reports of declining popularity and threats from emerging rivals, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is not taking any shifts in tech culture lightly. The social media giant released a stand-alone app known as Paper on January 30 in an attempt to change the way users engage with content and news on their smartphones. Judging by the rave reviews the app is getting from tech publications, Facebook Paper may be a real weapon in the battle to stop a migration to Twitter (NASDAQ:TWTR) and other upstart services.
Facebook presented the Paper app in a blog post outlining its highlights. Instead of the horizontal scroll smartphone users have grown accustomed to, Paper offers a horizontal news feed that brings in stories recommended and liked by friends but, more importantly, recommendations from Facebook editors, whose job it is to present interesting content to engage users of the social media platform.
If that sounds like a shift from typical social media activity, it is. Facebook again seems to be heading in the direction where Twitter has found itself a comfortable niche: content promotion. As with the hashtag search feature, Faceboook is quite comfortable studying and adapting to changes in the social media landscape, and many of those changes have been introduced by Twitter.
The result has been social media users who prefer a little less drama with their morning coffee and have turned to Twitter to see what respected figures they follow are recommending. Instead of lengthy examinations of mistakes in someone’s personal life, Twitter users have the opportunity to get news and find interesting posts from people they may or may not know. The Facebook Paper app appears aimed at this audience.
Facebook seems to be acknowledging that, on its tenth anniversary, the social media platform’s first users are now ten years older. If indeed the amount of engagement among users is leveling off or slipping, then Facebook needs to find a way for its billion or so users to stay involved moving forward. After all, the advertising revenue up for grabs is of staggering proportions.
Especially unique about Paper is its lack of connection to the main Facebook app. Chief executive and founder Mark Zuckerberg recently stated the company was headed in the direction of single-use mobile apps, for which the company set up a team dedicated to the fight known as Facebook Creative Labs. Paper is the first product of that team’s efforts. It was one year in the making.
For content creators seeking more exposure — and thus more ad revenue — the introduction of Paper holds many possibilities. Instead of looking for retweets and other exposure on Twitter, publishers, bloggers, and public figures can look to the Facebook Paper editorial team to recognize and promote their content. That leaves the social aspect out of the equation. If Facebook is going to stay relevant for another ten years, these displays of agility will have to continue.
Facebook Paper debuts February 3.