Does Facebook Paper Reinvent the Newspaper?

Last week, Facebook celebrated its 10th anniversary and, in honor of that major milestone, the social media giant released Paper – a new iOS app that has completely reimagined the way users interact with their Facebook news feed.

The app works much in the same way that a magazine would. Content is collected in different sections – Flavors for food, Well Live for home décor, Headlines for world news, and so on – and you swipe to the left to switch between articles and sections.

Where Paper differs from traditional magazines is that it also pulls in updates and posts from your friends, like your Facebook newsfeed would, to give users a comprehensive look at their lives.

In keeping with the current trends, Paper is extremely visual – we’re talking posts focused on imagery rather than text, panoramic viewing, and the ability to view an image through various angles simply by tilting and moving your phone.

Thanks to sites like Instagram and Pinterest, visual content is big, and after studying the ins and outs of user behavior and fielding countless suggestions from a dedicated user base for the last 10 years, it’s clear that Facebook – the crowned king of social media – gets “it.” They understand their user’s desire for a visually striking experience, and one that feels personal yet worldly in a single moment. And in that regard, Paper delivers.

But in the grand scheme of all things online, is Facebook’s Paper really all that groundbreaking?

Though it’s turned a few heads, many people deeply engrained in the digital world (myself included) would say no.

As many reviewers are quick to point out, Paper bears a striking resemblance to Flipboard, another successful “magazine-like” content aggregator for iOS in both its look and feel. But Paper has that name recognition (thank you, Facebook) that Flipboard never will, and Paper takes the idea of magazine style content aggregation just a little bit further than we’ve seen before.

What is Paper doing differently that improves our content curation experience?

  • Makes each post seem more important – In today’s world where news is instant, we tend to scroll through headlines and updates without really looking. Paper gives each post a dedicated focus on the screen, forcing the user to stop simply scrolling through updates and actually look at the piece of news in front of them, which I think can result in a much more engaged user base.

  • Brings back the tradition of newspaper – One of the things online news loses is the traditional look and feel of a magazine – the eye-catching layouts and the turning of a page. Paper brings those details back to the forefront, and reminds users that swiping your finger to turn the page can be just as satisfying (without the fear of getting ink on your fingers).

  • Understands how people like to get their news – In today’s content-heavy world, no one gets their news from a single source. We want news from outlets big and small, recognized and unknown, and we want to hear what our friends have to say as well. Paper know this, and includes a variety of sources into its pages.

  • Incorporates elements of the Facebook app that we know and love – Yes, Paper is a separate entity from Facebook. And yes, Paper is meant to focus on news, but there are still some Facebook elements alive and well in the app including Chat Heads messages, friend requests and notifications, and search functionality. This allows us to both read and share the news, and engage in conversation with friends. Given the similarities, Paper opens the door for a Facebook replacement down the line.

Facebook’s Paper isn’t changing the world, and despite some initial reviews, I don’t think it’s going to be “the next big thing.” But you know what? That’s ok, because Paper is doing a lot of things right, and making some pretty big leaps forward in the way Facebook users interact with their news, and really, the way they interact with on
e another.

Have you had the chance to test out Facebook’s Paper for yourself? Share your own experiences and thoughts in the comments below.

Rachael Genson is an Account Executive at INK: PR + Brand + Social in Austin, TX. Tweet her at @rmgenson.