Facebook Paper, launched earlier this month, is the first standalone product to come out of the network’s newly-minted Creative Labs. The initial version of the app, available only on iPhone, merges content from friends, headlines, memes and other curated subject streams. One of the available streams displays content from friends and pages the user follows, while the others feature top content from outside of the user’s network.
Designed to be used with just one hand, the interface is radically updated from that of the standard Facebook platform. The navigation leaves skeuomorphism behind, opting instead for fluid-animation that though not initially intuitive, becomes easy to understand.
By choosing to launch a renewed experience on mobile, Facebook has side-stepped the usual backlash stemming from mass updates to its main site. Instead, it focuses on the nearly 80% of its user base that logs in daily via mobile.
The Paper launch reflects a larger move by the social network to regain control of information flow by prioritizing robust content from publishers and other producers. Following an algorithm change late last year, content publishers began to notice a significant uptick in social referral traffic coming from Facebook. If Paper succeeds as planned, Facebook will use the app to further strengthen its position as the top social referrer, opening the door for increased revenue from native advertising.
Unfortunately, this spells bad news for brands that are already struggling to gain exposure on the platform, as robust content takes precedent. Facebook maintains that no ad units are currently in the works for Paper, leaving branded content with limited real estate on the new app.
The good news for Facebook is that Paper both distances the network from the noisy, advertising-focused newsfeed of the past and positions the company to deploy higher-impact, native advertising in the future.
Though the app has early adopters raving, it remains to be seen if Paper will change users’ and marketers’ perceptions of the network. For now, Paper has no immediate implications for brand action; however, it is yet another indication that brands must produce increasingly better and more interesting content to remain visible to consumers.