Paper is a new standalone iPhone app by Facebook, it’s a newsreading app in the vein of Flipboard and Prismatic showcasing all the content you already follow on Facebook.
It’s a reimagined interface for the News Feed, with the addition of news categories that users can subscribe to. Continuing their strategy started with Messenger and Poke, Facebook is unbundling core functionality into separate standalone apps.
When Facebook users log in to Paper, they will see a plethora of beautiful content cards curated into news categories by editors. While certainly a fluid and delightful experience for consumption that uses gestures and eschews many of the tired paradigms of the traditional app, the improvements to the creation tools strike me as perhaps the most ‘game-changing’ elements of the app.
Like Medium and Svbtle, Paper dramatically beautifies the way users post content. However unlike those networks, all your friends are already on Facebook.
“It’s no fun to make a bunch of great stuff if no one ever sees it.”
Explains Mike Matas, Paper’s product design lead. While another standalone Facebook app, Poke, was simply a copy of Snapchat, Paper’s ambitions are much greater than creating a Flipboard clone.
“As you start changing the way you’re displaying this content, we hope that it will change the way people think about posting content, because the two are obviously really connected.”
Facebook is at a crucial point in it’s history. It’s continuously being seen as the ‘Walmart’ of social networks with it’s poor quality, often spammy content.
When a user composes a post in Paper, it’s completely different to creating a post in the traditional Facebook interface. Instead, as the user adds content they can see exactly what the final post will look like. This will have the effect of users editing their posts and ensuring their posts look beautiful and rich like the content they’ve serendipitously browsed in Paper.
Just like Facebook’s aim with the Timeline, Paper is a way to get users to improve the quality of their content. People will want to showcase their content in it’s best light. More than just re-sharing cat memes, Facebook hopes people will want to tell deeper stories in the more visual format.
Matas goes so far as to say that:
"it’s a publishing tool, a way of publishing great content, and a way of viewing great content."
And it should work, if the app becomes popular.
That’s a big if, because so far Facebook has a mixed track record of unbundling their core services into apps. Poke and Camera have been failures, though Messenger has been a resounding success. I’m sure Zuckerberg hopes that Paper will find its way onto millions of users home screens.
If it does, then Facebook has a chance of improving the content posted to it’s network. Vital, if it’s not going to be seen as the ugly bloated website that your mother uses. Equally important to Facebook’s financial brokers, more rich content will mean more data for Facebook to use for behavioural targeting.