The release of Facebook’s Paper comes right on the heels of the news that Facebook has been making a killing on mobile ads. They are making a lot of money. Specifically, they are making “half their ad money on mobile ads” money. For now though, Paper is advertising-free. I assume the app will eventually be monetized and ads will show up, so let’s think about how Paper can work for marketers.
First of all, in case you don’t know, here’s a quick run down on Paper. It’s a new mobile experience that carries over most of the functionality from the main Facebook app, with a few things missing. You can access groups, but it takes some scrolling and tapping and it’s not quick. If you get a notification about an event, you can see the event all Papered up and pretty. However, if you want to browse your events you close Paper and open up the standard Facebook app.
So what is Paper then? It’s Facebook’s new focus on content and storytelling. They’ve gotten rid of as much of the interface as possible because, as Paper engineer Jason Prado said, “Paper was designed on a principle: that content should be respected.” Content takes up the entire screen.
Additionally there are new sections to browse. Not only can you browse Facebook, you can also browse sections that cover news, technology, pop culture, and more. Facebook has become a way to consume content that wasn’t directly shared with you.
Oh, content? You mean, like content marketing?
No. Well, at least not yet. As I previously mentioned, there’s no advertising on the platform. Presumably this is to encourage more users to try out the new experience. Right now the News Feed on the traditional app is a bit of a mess. Shared article, promoted post, status update, Instagram post, another ad. There’s no consistency to it. While the metrics clearly show the success of advertising, on a fundamental level these ads are still an interruption to the experience.
Here’s where it could get interesting. If your brand creates valuable content, then that content has a chance at fitting in one of Paper’s sections. As long as that content really is worthwhile, then it has become a welcome part of the experience. Then, you’re no longer interrupting people to show them something. You’re giving them what they came there to look for.
When someone visits a section of Paper, they are specifically looking for that type of content. They actively chose to look for it. If you can deliver them that content, not only are they almost certainly going to be more likely to click, they are going to have a more positive association with your brand. You didn’t just slip them something while they weren’t paying attention, you delivered on what they were looking for. So while the idea of content marketing is certainly nothing new, and to some extent we’re wailing away on a dead horse, it seems to be the one road to success on Paper.
Still, there is no proper advertising on Paper, so this isn’t an immediate guide to how you can capitalize on Paper. However, I would have to imagine that promoted posts and advertisements will find their way into Paper’s sections. In terms of what we can do now though, there are still some things that are unclear.
First of all, who’s going to use this thing. Aside from techies, do people want this? Do they know about it? Think about the outrage produced by even the smallest changes to the traditional Facebook app. Now think about how many of the gestures in paper break common design language. Even just getting people to browse left-to-right instead of up-and-down is a huge change. Will the average user be receptive to that? From Facebook’s perspective it doesn’t seem to matter. Product manager Michael Reckhow has claimed they have no real targets for engagement or downloads and that they just want a product people will check out and see “how it’s going to fit into their lives.”
The second thing that isn’t clear is exactly how stories get featured, because if you can manage to get your content featured right now then you have just won at Paper. What we do know is that some content is pulled from top news sources and some is curated by people at Facebook. So while launching something with a reliance on Paper can’t be a thing yet, it could help an already successful campaign continue to perform well.
And finally, when is advertising coming? If they get a lot downloads and good usage that brings users over from the main Facebook app, well then their own successes in mobile advertising would be cannibalized. I have to imagine that the advertising would work like it does on Instagram, with trusted content-creators being allowed to promote their content in a specific section. Provided, of course, that it relates to the section.
So try out Paper, see what you think, and keep building a great stable of content so that when advertising hits you will be ready to go. Oh, and even though it’s “US only”, remember that you can still download Paper if you’re in another country.