There's been talk all month that Facebook would soon launch a news reader app called Paper, and the company has now made the official announcement.
It won't be available until February 3rd, and it's only for iPhone in the U.S. for now.
The company describes Paper as a way to help you "explore and share stories from friends and the world around you." Facebook has had an increasing focus on getting hard news in front of users in recent months, and has even made adjustments to its News Feed algorithm to do so, even at the cost of showing people less of the other things they like to share.
On the company earnings call on Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg talked up its separate apps like Messenger and Instagram, which have both seen significant growth over the past quarter. The company will hope Paper gains similar traction, as opposed to that of its Poke app.
"Your Paper is made of stories and themed sections, so you can follow your favorite interests," explains Zuckerberg. "The first section in Paper is your Facebook News Feed, where you’ll enjoy inspiring new designs for photos, videos, and longer written posts. You can customize Paper with a choice of more than a dozen other sections about various themes and topics—from photography and sports to food, science and design. Each section includes a rich mix of content from emerging voices and well-known publications."
"The Storytelling and sharing have been reimagined in Paper to show stories at their best," says Facebook. "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."
The app comes from Facebook's new developer arm Facebook Creative Labs. This is the first app to come out of it, but it sounds like more will be on the way. The idea, the company says, is to create apps that "support the diverse ways people want to connect and share."
This is also in line with Zuckerberg's comments on the earnings call. He pointed out that that Facebook Groups, for example has surpassed 500,000 users because people want to share and use Facebook in different ways. These Creative Labs apps will cater to this. Perhaps we'll see a standalone Groups app at some point.
Paper certainly enters a competitive space. There is no shortage of apps for news reading. In fact, Jason Calacanis just launched a pretty nice one this week called Inside. Facebook, of course, has the power of being Facebook behind it, so it has a pretty significant advantage right off the bat. The biggest thing working against it is that people already have news reading habits that they're set in.
In fact, many probably have just gotten used to new habits thanks to the demise of Google Reader. Paper, by the way, doesn't exactly look like a replacement for Google Reader any more than Flipboard does.
Images via Facebook