According to a report yesterday in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Facebook is developing a new news reader with an emphasis on mobile devices. Dubbed “Reader,” the Flipboard-like news aggregation tool has been in development for over a year, according to the WSJ:
The project, which the company has been developing for more than a year, is designed to showcase news content in particular. Recent versions of Reader resemble Flipboard Inc., a smartphone and tablet app that aggregates stories from multiple sources and lets users swipe to flip through articles, said the people with knowledge of the project.
At a press event announcing a revamped Facebook News Feed in March, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and others used the metaphor of a “personalized newspaper” to describe their aspiration for News Feed. Apparently, News Feed was merely a down-payment on that vision, if the WSJ’s report is correct.
It is likely that report is accurate. TechCrunch mistakenly predicted that last week’s rollout of video for Instagram would instead be the launch of an RSS reader. Facebook “Reader” is probably the thing that TechCrunch had heard about and was anticipating.
I said in March that the concept of a “personalized newspaper” could be pushed much further by Facebook, which could add even greater engagement and overall utility to the site. If Reader (or whatever it turns out to be called) is well done, it could bring new forms of daily usage and engagement — and ad inventory — to Facebook.
Without seeing how it works, it’s impossible to speculate on whether it will succeed or fail. And, it’s also difficult to predict how news organizations will react to a Facebook news aggregation tool. However, many may welcome it as another source of traffic and alternative to Google.