Facebook Paper – Is it here to stay?

The opinions of an impatient Australian social media strategist

In late January of 2014 Facebook unveiled a brand new app specifically developed for the now-dominant mobile market. Facebook Paper pays respect to form (occasionally at the expense of ‘function’) and is a really exciting addition to the Facebook family. Although introduced as a trial in the USA, my Australian fingers couldn’t wait to get their smudgy prints all over the new app so I played around with my phone’s settings and downloaded a copy for myself.

Before I give you my take on Paper and let you know whether I think the app is here to stay, take a couple of minute’s to watch Facebook’s official launch video, or take a tour of the app at facebook.com/paper.

Introducing Paper from Facebook on Vimeo.

First impressions

Straight off the bat let me say that I really like Paper. It’s simply beautiful. From its uncluttered, immersive design to its intuitive gesture-heavy interface, Paper is an app created with a visual thinker like me in mind. Paper has a vibe reminiscent of Flipboard, yet, it is still very ‘Facebooky’ with the way in which it heroes content.

After downloading the app you’ll notice that the News Feed section is displayed very differently from what you have grown accustomed to on Facebook. The top half of the screen shows photos and videos, while the bottom half houses updates and links to content that your friends have shared. Swiping left and right navigates through the feed, rather than the traditional up and down motion.

I can tell you now that this app isn’t for everyone. The move away from a ‘top to bottom’ newsfeed structure is going to confuse and downright bother some people. I have no doubt that many users will uninstall the app quicker than you can say “Zuckerberg”. But hey, this is Facebook’s first test in the market.

Other than its new design and gestures, the latest addition to this reimagined Facebook is the ability to choose your own content topics. Much like a newspaper, Paper is made up of sections that can be added based on your particular interests. The first section in Paper is your News Feed, however, more than 12 other sections are available. Included in this list is “Headlines” for world news, “Score” for sports news, “Tech” for technology and innovation news as well as many more.


Possible implications for marketers

There are currently tens of millions of business Pages on Facebook. So the question on a lot of people’s lips is, “what are the implications of Facebook Paper for marketers?” At present, there are no ads on Facebook paper. As much as people may be enjoying the freedom now, this honeymoon phase won’t last forever as Facebook will surely release advertising options for businesses to utilise on Paper. For now though, the social media giant is still in the early stages of understanding how people are using the app, and will most likely only look into monetisation after in-market testing is complete.

Another factor businesses will have to take into consideration when thinking about Paper is the way in which their Page is displayed in the new format and, consequently, how to get the most out of the new design features.

One of the things I absolutely love about Paper is the way in which links are presented. The ‘in app’ experience with these links is by far more engaging and enjoyable than in previous Facebook incarnations, and I think this will be key for the consumer mobile experience with brands and their blogs/websites.


Where the app could improve

Although initially my overall experience with Paper has been very positive, there are certainly some improvements that, if made, could further enhance user experience with the app. After all, this is only version 1.0.

Firstly, I would like to see a bit of an overhaul in the content curation section of the app. This feature is one of the most exciting things about Paper, yet the lack of customisation is somewhat limiting. For example, I’m really interested in Football (or “soccer”) and would love to have content feeds from some of my favourite sites drip through to Facebook. However, at the moment, Paper is only offering sports content as one giant topic, known as ‘Score’, encompassing nearly every sport known to man (American-specific at this stage). If Facebook can get this right, then Paper will succeed. In my mind it is as simple as that. Hopefully Facebook’s developers download a copy of Zite and ‘borrow’ a few ideas on amazing custom content curation for themselves.

There has also been a number of complaints around the lack of support for iOS 6 devices. For people still chugging away with older model iPhones this is a significant problem, as they can’t even access the app! For such people I feel very sorry indeed. Not only because they are unable to download the beautiful Paper, but also as they are still putting up with an old, bubbly, heavier than gold iPhone 3GS!

Final thoughts

In my opinion, Facebook Paper is a game changer. It’s as plain and simple as that. Not only does the platform now have almost everything we could desire in a social networking app, it is a beautiful refresh of a network that is starting to get a little ragged and tired. Although there are plenty of other apps and services out there doing similar things in terms of content curation, Paper is by far the most convenient, centralised and social. With just a few tweaks here and there, and with the possible integration of some of Facebook’s other key features (such as groups and events), Facebook Paper will fast become the most used app on my phone.