Facebook is reportedly working on a smartphone and tablet friendly news aggregation service, not based on RSS, in an effort to keep mobile users on the site for longer. Both TechCrunch and The Wall Street Journal have been informed by sources that the development of the product, codenamed “Reader”, will not be rushed.
Reader will reportedly be more similar to Flipboard, a social media feed aggregation app with 50 million users, than the soon to be defunct Google Reader. Presumably, the app will collate posts and stories that a user’s friends have already engaged with, as well as those from pages that the user has liked, and arrange them in a tablet or smartphone screen-friendly format.
Currently, most mobile users are spending minute amounts of time of Facebook’s app, checking updates and sending quick messages rather than browsing through the news feed for any decent length of time. Facebook are hoping that by investing time in creating an attractive, intuitive and accessible interface, users will be persuaded to spend more time on the app, hence being more susceptible to advertising.
However, according to some sources, Facebook views news reader apps as niche products, not suitable for the majority of Facebook’s socially-concerned users. It is suggested that Facebook are putting time into the project in order to minimise the risk involved.
Two of Facebook’s competitors, LinkedIn and Twitter, are investing heavily in similar software. LinkedIn, for example, bought Pulse, a mobile-friendly news aggregator app, for $90 million earlier this year. Facebook will have to bring something new to the table if they hope to compete with Pulse and Flipboard, as well as everything else that’s already out there, but a focus on the engagement of friends may help the company do just that.
In related news, some Facebook users are being prompted to start group chats with friends who have liked their posts. A “Start Group Chat” button has appeared at the bottom of the “People who like this” box. Facebook has also begun asking users to invite their friends to like pages even if they are not the page’s administrators.
Do you think a Facebook Reader is a good idea?