What most of us think of when we think of Newspapers got their their start back in the early 1700’s. Starting with the Boston News-Letter, and followed soon after by papers from New York and Philadelphia, the Colonists began getting news about their colonies and what was going on back in Britain. They were typically four pages long and one-sided. Daily papers didn’t evolve for decades, and it wasn’t until the 1800’s that printing press technology advanced to the point that printing became cheap enough to be able to mass-print papers that were affordable, as well as two-sided.1
Fast-forward to today, and we find traditional news delivery being replaced more and more by digital delivery mediums. Websites, RSS feeds, news readers and portals, and Social Media. Despite being the most popular social network, Facebook has seemed to lag behind Twitter and Google+ when it comes to how much users depend on the platform for getting and sharing the latest news. Recognizing a desire to deliver rich news and stories, while still serving the multi-faceted needs and uses of the platform, it would seem that Facebook abandoned the idea of revising the News Feed and instead, they’ve created a brand new stand-alone app.
Facebook’s new app is called Paper. It’s a free app that joins Facebook’s suite of apps: Facebook, Pages* and Messenger (as well as Facebook Camera and Facebook Poke).
The new app is specifically designed to help you focus on the news and stories you’re interested in seeing. Just like opening your favorite newspaper to the section you want to read first, and ignoring any others you’re not interested in. We’ll get into some specific instructions in a moment, but the key point here is that when you first open Paper, you’ll connect your own Facebook account and instantly see the most recent status updates and stories from your personal connections and the Pages that you follow.
You will then be prompted to select one or more “categories” of stories that are essentially other sections of your newspaper. Al of your friend and Page updates appear in the first section, while subsequent sections are devoted to whatever categories you’ve expressed an interest in.
Within each section, some stories are highlighted at the top of the screen using large images, and rotate automatically, while other recent stories are displayed below and can be scrolled through from right to left. Just like within the regular Facebook app, you can tap on stories to read more, as well as Like, Comment and Share stories using the traditional icons.
In their official announcement, Facebook says that:
Storytelling and sharing have been reimagined in Paper to show stories at their best.
- Everything responds to your touch so you can pick up or thumb through stories with simple, natural movements
- You can tilt your phone to explore high-resolution panoramic photos from corner to corner, and see faces and other important details up close
- Fullscreen autoplay videos come to life and bring you deep into the action
- Beautifully detailed covers make it easy to spot articles from trusted publishers and decide what to read or watch.· Articles unfold in the app and appear fullscreen for a focused reading experience
- When you’re ready to tell your own story, you know exactly what your post or photo will look like because you see a live preview before you share it
Let’s dig into the mechanics and getting started with the new app, as there are some major differences, particularly in navigation.
Getting Started with Paper
As I mentioned, when you first load and open the app, you will have to log in to your Facebook account. You will then be prompted to select one or more additional interests which will be delivered as additional sections of news. Currently available interests are:
- Pop Life
- All City
- Well Lived
- Family Matters
You can change your selections at any time by tapping and holding the Facebook logo in the upper left corner. Within the category select area, you can tap and hold specific categories and then drag them around to reorder your Paper sections in whatever way you wish.
If you swipe down while viewing story summaries, you’ll reveal options for Search, your Profile, Create Post, Edit Sections and Settings.
Tap on your Profile to see how your profile looks in the new app. Sections like About and Photos are now cards below a main image which automatically cycles through your cover photo and recently shared images. Swiping from right to left on the main image will take you back an entire year for yourself or whomever’s profile you’re viewing, and the cards below will have recent stories and status updates accordingly. Swipe down to go back to your news feed and swipe down again to get back to the Menu.
Write Post looks a bit different, but otherwise includes the same capabilities as a post on Facebook, with addition of a Live Preview option so that you can review your post before you share it.
Within Settings, you can decide whether or not the app will send you notifications, and if those notifications will open in Paper or the Facebook app. Slide to the right to turn off. You can adjust Autopan and Autoplay videos, as well as specify a Read Later app like Pocket, Instapaper, Pinboard or Safari Reading List.
Navigating the app and stories may take some time to get used to as it uses Swipe as the major technique, rather than tapping. Swipe left or right to change sections or scroll through individual stories. Swipe up or down to open or close stories. And make sure to move your phone left an right to see the rest of images that are wider than the screen. (Tapping an image will still open it as a full image, and tapping again will take you back to the relevant story.)
As you’re scrolling through stories, over time, new stories may come up, and the app will provide a left arrow and numerical indicator that lets you know there are a number of new stories to be viewed, and an easy way to get to them.
Note that Facebook Friend Requests, Messages and Notifications icons are located in the upper right and should sync perfectly with your app and desktop Facebook accounts.
Facebook’s Paper and it’s Impact on Business Pages
For businesses maintaining Facebook Pages, there are a number of initial observations to be made.
First, understand that anyone who uses the Paper app may potentially see your updates. You don’t have to “do” anything specific to “get into” Paper. If they Like your Page, they may see your updates and engage with you like they would normally.
That said, businesses should also be aware of how their updates look within Paper. If the app really seems to catch on and gains widespread usage, it will make the use of images more important, as well as invite businesses to include far more information in their posts. Recent statistics have suggested that posts with just 100 – 200 characters of text plus an image are getting the most Reach, but that may change with this app.
And Reach is another factor that we’ll have to keep an eye on. There is, of course, no official word from Facebook as whether or not there is any difference in Reach for Facebook app users versus Paper app users. In other words, if I post to my Facebook Page, will that post be more likely to be seen by Paper users? I suspect not, though if I do a good job of presenting visually interesting stories, it’s conceivable that the Paper app may help highlight those stories and have an impact on future Reach organically.
Did I lose you there?
Understand that Facebook has an algorithm in place called EdgeRank that looks at your followers, your past posts, how much interest your followers have expressed in your past posts, and uses that to determine how likely each of your individual followers are to see your future posts. If you look at any of your past posts, you can easily see how many people have “seen” it (Reach) and then calculate that as a ratio of your total number of Page Followers. 5% – 15% is what most businesses are seeing currently, but it’s actually more complicated than that, as it’s based on the individual and not the aggregate. If I like a Page and tend to Like and Comment and Share on their posts, Facebook will continue to show me their posts, so it’s important to understand that if your posts are generally getting 7% Reach, it’s generally going to be the same fans that you’re reaching each time.
It becomes important then to not only continue to provide content and information that those people are interested in, but to strive to create updates that, each time, a few more people will Like and be interested in. And if the Paper app will help to display and deliver your updates in a way that’s even more attractive than the native app, that may make it a bit easier for you to increase that activity and Reach.
From a strictly visual perspective, it would appear that it is better to share an image with a link in the description, rather than a link preview. Both will display, but the image share will definitely stand out more.
Where to Get Paper
Paper is currently available for iOS only, here: [iTunes Link]. There’s no official word on when an Android release will be available, nor has there been any mention of those using Facebook Home.
What do you think? Give Paper a try if you haven’t already and see if you agree that the interface is gorgeous and fun to use, and that it’s made reading and discovering stories via Facebook a little more fun again.
1. Newspaper – History (Wikipedia)