In its overall battle for content quality, Facebook is said to be almost ready to unveil its new toy – or weapon, you choose – this month: Paper, a reader for mobile devices, with the look and feel of Flipboard and the ambitions of… Marc Zuckerberg.
Last June, the Wall Street Journal first reported on the company’s efforts to build such a service. Since then, Facebook has amped up its content strategy, and with it, its advertising game. The big question is whether the reader, understood to be called “Paper,” will be a standalone app or a mobile-optimized version of the website. Re/code cites sources close to the matter as saying that the launch is due in the coming two weeks, “before the end of January.” The reader is rumored to be heavily design-centered to offer optimum user experience while seamlessly interspacing news items with user status updates.
The birth of Paper, together with Facebook’s efforts to bring quality to the News Feed is part of the underlying attempt to boost engagement and therefore ad revenues, especially from mobile users.
This summer, we looked into how much the News Feed is worth to advertisers. Sure enough, the first tweaks were applicable to ads running in the News Feed in general, with users being asked to give feedback on relevance to support a subsequent algorithm upgrade.
Then with reports coming out and clearly showing that the majority of its users access the network via mobile devices, Facebook shifted gears and put mobile users and advertisers front line. First, it gave deeper links in mobile app ads with an extended seven call to actions on ad unit. Then the launch of promoted videos on autoplay for mobiles further strengthened the outreach to mobile advertisers, by attempting to increase user/viewer dwell time per video.
More recently, Facebook acquired Little Eye Labs, a startup providing advertisers and marketers analytics on Android device users. Zuckerberg’s company even went as far as inking a deal with T-Mobile’s prepaid services in order to give free access to Facebook to all of GoSmart’s users, data plan or not – why? To gain further traction from mobile users and give more advertising opportunities. Those free accesses have to be paid for somewhere, right?
So back to the question: will Paper be a standalone app or an optimized web version? On the one hand, an app would make more sense from an advertising revenue perspective but given Facebook’s poor attempts so far at launching apps (remember Poke? Or even the Messenger), it may prove to be a big test for the company. One thing is certain: Flipboard cracked that nut and is now expecting to surpass 150 million users this year – a bounty for marketers and advertisers. So come on, Facebook, show us the money.