New Facebook news apps: bring the news to your users, or invite users to your news?

There’s a salient quote in’s report on Facebook’s  “new class of news apps” launched today:

“As we worked with different news organisations there were two camps: people that wanted to bring the social experience onto their sites, like Yahoo [News] and the Independent; and those that wanted the social news experience on Facebook, like Guardian, the Washington Post and the Daily,” director of Facebook’s platform partnerships Christian Hernandez told

So which is better? An initial play with the apps of The Independent and The Guardian appears to demonstrate the difference well. Here, for example, is the Facebook app widget as it appears on The Independent – or rather, as it almost appears: various other editorial and commercial choices push it onto the fold:

The Independent's new Facebook App in action

The Guardian app, meanwhile, hands over editorial control to the users in a customarily clean design:

Guardian Facebook app

But hold on, what’s this in my news/activity/information overload stream next to The Guardian’s article?

The Guardian news app with Independent stories in the user's news stream

It appears that The Independent app takes the news to the users as well.

What’s happening here? Well, from a user perspective, unless you’re on the Guardian app page or The Independent, both apps work in exactly the same way: if a friend is reading an article on either, it will appear in your feed.

What’s the difference? In The Independent’s case, the friend has to be reading it on the site after having logged onto the Facebook app. In The Guardian’s case, they have to be reading it on the app page.

So in both cases, the publisher is asking the user to ‘come to us’. Whether the address begins with or – it’s still a click away.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that they’re not also taking the news to the users. Both have various Facebook pages which allow users to see stories directly in their news feed, and The Independent do this particularly well, as reported previously.

Both also have Like/Recommend buttons scattered liberally across their site.

So why install The Independent app? To see what your friends are reading while you’re on their site (if you scroll down a bit), and to reduce the effort needed to share what you’re reading.

Why install The Guardian app? This also reduces the effort needed to share your reading (both apps assume sharing by default), but also to get only the populist and socially-influenced view of the site.

In other words, they both actually do pretty much the same thing, with the key difference being that on The Independent, your Facebook friends’ reading is a small part of the editorial mix, and on The Guardian it is – along with the broader ‘most popular’ stories – the only part of the editorial mix. (If you want a different editorial mix, you can go to The Guardian’s website – but you’ll be missing the friends’ stream).

There’s a key extra ingredient here, too, however – and that’s the Facebook streams mentioned above. With The Guardian app I can see all the news my friends are reading, and access all the other Facebook functionality such as chat and messaging. And that make a big difference.

That said, I also feel ‘cut off’ from the wider, less popular, Guardian content and functionality on their app in a way that The Independent doesn’t suffer from.

So it comes down to what sort of editorial mix you want as a reader. And there may well be a place for both. But the news finds the users in the end, either way.

12 thoughts on “New Facebook news apps: bring the news to your users, or invite users to your news?

  1. Tom Davenport

    I’m interested in what these publishers think of losing traffic to facebook, and thus losing page/ad views. All the same work, perhaps a growing readership, but less traffic data to sell to advertisers? Hmm. Something’s gotta give.

    1. Paul Bradshaw Post author

      Well, there’s advertising on the Guardian app which I’m assuming is sold by The Guardian. They can also say to advertisers that users will have made the effort to install the app, demonstrating that they are engaged with the brand. Would also be interesting to know what traffic data they get, and how ad rates differ (if at all).

      1. Tom Davenport

        Consider the wider web – Facebook seem to want this functionality from as many publishers as possible. Take Mashable, for example. They’ll have themselves in knots deciding whether to suck up to new social features, or lose traditional traffic.

        Did I say “traditional traffic”? Now there’s a sign of the times.

    2. Nina

      Hi – the left hand side of the page (article and ads) are served by the Guardian so we will still capture the related data.

  2. Simon Howes

    It’s all so Facebook can mine data from our accounts, privacy is out of the window and is now on public show.

    Google mine our data already and Facebook wants a piece of this pie. Google have our searches, e-mail, news, maps, adsense etc, but it has always been closed between us and Google. It is far easier for Facebook to do this if they get partners involved. After all, we are the “products” and they are in it to make money. It’s this data which is the real value to both them (Facebook and news orgs) and the advertisers. A standalone app on the iPhone does not have a large enough pool of readers to be useful for web advertising.

    People will be vocal about privacy once it hits them. *goes and gets his tin foil hat*

    Google are way ahead already, and Google+ being their top priority will be worth more than Facebook in time.

    1. Paul Bradshaw Post author

      It has already been said that ‘data is the new oil’ and people have no idea how valuable their data is. Facebook make me far more uncomfortable with Google in how hungry they are for all this – perhaps because Google don’t need to be. Yet.

      On the plus side, Facebook seem so desperate that they are making a wreck of their core value to users.

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  6. Jessie

    This is overall great for users as it gets more people interested in what is going on in the world instead of reading boring status. Ultimately you can see what everyone else is reading and therefore can read a range of different publishers, giving us a wider scope on news stories and opinions on different topics.
    However, considering what you have all said about the data issue and how it is all a lure to get information on us for advertising etc. I suppose nothing is free and advertising is everywhere. In my eyes advertising is becoming weaker and weaker because we have seen it all, it takes a lot for me to be lured in to an advertisement. They need this information on us, to find out what we are interested in to big up their game on attracting us.
    Of course it is all about money, nothing is free. But the idea is still nice and I will be using it.

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