We report on an industry where apps, features and new products come out on a daily basis claiming they will change the world but more often than not you become immune to all the hype. Today I started playing with something that had me absolutely hooked and sent a shivery of excitement down my back because I knew I was seeing the future of publishing and content delivery. It's called the Washington Post Social reader and you can read all about it and how it works here.
What Is So Great About It?
It lives 100% within Facebook. It can be accessed via smart phones and tablets. It serves you up personalized news based on what you have already liked on Facebook. You can see what your friends are reading or have read in the past. It gets smarter the more you read it. It has a huge amount of content from partner sites tailored to your interests. It allows you to interact socially over news in a way you couldn't before. In short it's all about discovery and engaging with content in an entirely new and social way. It instantly feels right and more importantly it's fun to read and use.
Publishers are going to love this model because with the new Facebook ticker every time you read a story (which is defined by spending at least 30 seconds on the article) it shows up in your ticker for other people to click on. The app will also show up on your timeline highlighting all the media you have consumed recently meaning that more people will install the app.
Unlike other similar news apps for the likes of the iPad including Flipboard and Zite this can reach 800 million users via Facebook alone and exist on all platforms including the desktop where people consume most news. Publishers will be able to grow their content in record time with the massive distribution possibilities of this app.
Although Facebook think that everything we do should be shared including the articles we read, the movies we watch and the songs we listen to there are some huge privacy concerns. The first thing I noticed was all the articles that a friend had read that day showed up in my feed. I could see that he read about 10 articles in total (he is a journalist so he was clearly researching) but how would a boss feel if they saw one of their employees reading all day? You have to opt in by signing up to the app but I'm not sure how I feel about the whole world seeing what I read all day in real time. Some things are not made for sharing!
Video Demo With Chairman
This is a video filmed with Robert Scoble who walks through the app with the Chairman of the Washington Post and the person with the vision for this app. It takes a while to get going but it's a much watch in terms of understanding where this is all headed.
Watch Out Google
The reason I'm so excited about this app is because of what it means for the entire industry. I'm not even sure if this app will be a huge success but the technology behind it will. The social nature of news and sharing has just been taken to the next level and publishers will have to jump all over this. What blew my mind was for the first time ever I spent 20 minutes within Facebook reading content and I could find new content without even going to Google. Google were locked out of the entire process. The ads belonged to Facebook but as it says in the video above if this takes off and gets big enough the Washington Post themselves will start serving their own ads. Make no mistake about it this is the first tiny step in to a whole new world for publishing.