It’s been rumored for more than a year and Facebook has finally introduced a news reader app that will rival Flipboard: it’s called Paper. The iOS mobile app displays stories around specific interests and can be customized based on a variety of topics. It’s also the first product to come out of Facebook’s Creative Labs, which is leading the charge to come up with new ways to help people better connect with one another.
Paper will be available for download from February 3 and only for those in the US. There are no details of whether or when it will be available worldwide.
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Just like a newspaper, the app is broken up into multiple sections with the first featuring content from your News Feed. It will feature photos, videos, and longer-form written posts — shades of Cover Feed, perhaps? Users will have more than a dozen sections of interesting topics to choose from, whether it’s photography, sports, food, science, or even design. Facebook says that one section to note is its Ideas section, which will offer a daily and in-depth look at a particular idea, event, or personality and will change each day.
The company tells us that the way things are organized within each section is based on its algorithm and curation team — in a sense its process is similar to Inside.com, which launched earlier this week. Paper is relying on computational programming and human-based expertise in order to know how good of a story is on Facebook, whether it’s receiving any shares or comments or if it’s visually appealing.
Earlier this week, Re/code also reported that Facebook was looking to bolster its human curation efforts by hiring more editors. These individuals would be responsible for finding passionate and talented professionals within each topic to share their knowledge. These people wouldn’t necessarily be celebrities in their field and could be those that simply don’t have thousands of followers. However, it appears that stories shown in Paper will be those that are currently being shown on Facebook — there won’t be any exclusivity in the app where certain stories will be available only on Paper.
What makes Paper perhaps interesting to some users is that they’ll be able to have that one news reader app that’s tied directly into their Facebook profile. Facebook’s most recent stats show that nearly 1 billion people are accessing the service from mobile devices each month. And while the News Feed may be one of the most trafficked parts of the social network, it’s possible that the company wants to deliver some additional value and maybe improve upon its personalization algorithm and help discover new content you might be interested in.
The app also offers fullscreen viewing for content of various types. If you’re looking at a high-resolution photo, tilt the phone in order to enlarge it so that you can explore the image from “corner to corner” as well as “see faces and other important details up close. Additionally, videos will autoplay and take up the entire dimensions of the screen. The full text of articles can also be read within Paper — the native browser app won’t be opened.
And yes, you can share content back to Facebook as Paper will allow you to customize how your preview will appear.
Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images