Sun - 21.01.2018

Easy come, easy go: social reader apps take a nose dive

Easy come, easy go: social reader apps take a nose dive

Social media giveth, and social media taketh away… When Facebook launched its "frictionless sharing" social reader apps last September in partnership with news organisations including The Guardian, The Independent and The Washington Post, many in the media business hailed it as a major boost for the industry. Now, however, the number of people using social news reader apps has taken a plunge, after changes implemented by Facebook.

Just over one month after the social reader’s launch, Facebook announced that The Guardian app had been installed nearly 4 million times, and had pushed up page impressions by around 1 million every day. According to Facebook, The Washington Post’s app gained 3.5 million active monthly users in its first month, and 83% of its users were under 35.

The buzz around the social readers remained high. At the beginning of March, announced that The Guardian app had 3.9 million monthly active users, more than half of whom were under 25. Later that month, also reported on a talk given by The Guardian's director of digital development Tanya Cordrey, who told the audience at the Guardian Changing Media Summit that the social app had created a “seismic shift” in the paper's online readership. Several times in February, Cordrey told the audience, social media had become a bigger driver of traffic to Guardian articles that search engines. “It’s only a matter of time until social overtakes search for the Guardian,” she said.

Now, however, as the Wall Street Journal reports, the number of active users for social reader apps has taken a nose dive. The amount of active users for The Washington Post’s app fell from around 17m on April 11 to 9 million on May 7 and the number of monthly active users for The Guardian’s app dropped from 5.7 million to a little over 3 million last month. 

Why this sudden change? Buzz Feed (via the Future Journalism Project) suggested that Washington Post social app users didn’t like frictionless sharing and were sick of the disruptive user experience that the app provided: “They’re annoyed, and they’re quitting in droves,” read the article. CNET (via the same article) agreed that “what seems clear is that the only thing that’s spreading is a viral disgust with the application.”

But other news organisations including the Wall Street Journal and Nieman Lab have argued that the apps are being used less becuase Facebook has altered the way that social reader app articles are displayed. As Media Nama explains, Facebook has moved away from displaying four or five “recently read” articles in a special module and is instead showing just top trending articles, one at a time.

This does not spell the end of news reading on social media. The Wall Street Journal cites a spokesperson for Facebook, who says that the social network is still one of the biggest traffic drivers for news sites. But it does show that, as news organisations rely increasingly on social media to drive traffic, they are also increasingly at Facebook’s mercy.

Sources: Facebook, (1) (2), Wall Street Journal, Future Journalism Project, Media Nama


Hannah Vinter


2012-05-09 17:06

Shaping the Future of the News Publishing

© 2015 WAN-IFRA - World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

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