Based on watching the promo videos for Paper, the new Facebook application, I believe this new application will be one of the most valuable platforms for media companies and brands to distribute and tell stories. Disclosure: I own shares of Facebook.
The application will change how Facebook’s 556 million daily active mobile users interact with news on the mobile web. Facebook continues to grow its influence in referral traffic to publishers. In Q4 2013, Facebook referral traffic to publishers grew by an astonishing 48%. Meanwhile, Twitter referral traffic dropped by 4%.
Paper focuses on the idea of stories. This is an extremely powerful extraction of the Facebook NewsFeed. Forward-thinking publishers will have the ability to control a series of content through stories. Every media company must start thinking about their strategy for Paper and how they can take advantage of the stories feature.
If the stories concept seems foreign, it will clean up your mobile Facebook NewsFeed by grouping relevant news items. This change is similar to the simple switch Gmail introduced many years ago for email. In old email clients, our email traffic was managed chronologically. Before Gmail, relevant, but old emails, were lost in chronological lists, making it difficult for users to follow conversations. Gmail introduced a conversation feature for email, which enabled users to quickly digest a string of emails and understand the context of each new email. Paper is taking the Facebook NewsFeed and applying that same logic.
How the media can capitalize on Paper
There will be many opportunities for media companies to take advantage of this new feature set. For starters, grouping Facebook stories based on a topic allows media companies to capture and hold the attention of consumers in long-form content. Rather than releasing a full story at once, a publisher could leak sections of the story over a couple of days. These shorter bits could create anticipation for the next installment and Facebook users could follow the story as it unfolds.
Additionally, stories could make breaking news and the analysis that follows easier to consume. If news breaks today, it hits us in a stream of announcements, but some of the best coverage of the event can take weeks or months to unfold. Think of the Benghazi story – imagine the ability to follow the news as it breaks, changes, and the truth surfaces all from one specific feed.
It’s Ad free, but it won’t be
Facebook announced that Paper will initially be free of advertising. But I predict that brands will quickly produce some of the most innovative stories on the platform. During the Super Bowl, Budweiser released a series of commercials that followed the story of Ian during one night of extravagance. This advertisement created anticipation throughout a pretty boring Super Bowl because we were waiting to see what would happen next. Facebook Paper and its story feature will enable similar advertising on the mobile application.
Behind every great brand is a great story. Brands will quickly adopt the application and use it to share compelling branded content. They can use their massive audiences to distribute these stories quickly and build a following on Paper. Eventually, Facebook will force these branded stories to be sponsored, but until then, you should expect to see a lot of branded content in your Paper application.
Whenever a company with a user base approaching the size of China releases a new feature it’s an exciting opportunity to predict the impact. With Paper, I believe Facebook will hit a homerun and drive even more referral traffic to publishers as well as to brands. Paper could potentially be the story that changes the content marketing discussion in 2014. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.
By Benjy Boxer, NewsCred Product Manager. This article originally appeared on Forbes. Follow Benjy on Twitter.
Originally published on Feb 3, 2014 1:49 PM