News Apps Review: Comparing Facebook Paper with Flipboard

The growing flood of news delivered via the Internet has created a dilemma for readers: how to efficiently sift through the never-ending treadmill of information. Facebook’s new Paper app and the newly updated media-reading app Flipboard are both trying to leverage the effectiveness of a traditional newspaper teamed with the convenient functionality of a smartphone app. According to one review, Paper helps provide a broad view of the news, while Flipboard is easier to personalize.

Facebook recently launched its long-awaited Paper app designed for consuming news stories, photos and video content. Flipboard also “unveiled an upgrade to its digital magazine that organizes Web content even more like the sections in a print publication,” notes Personal Tech Columnist Geoffrey Fowler for The Wall Street Journal.

Other companies have joined the news app space, including Yahoo with its News Digest app, which provides summaries of important stories, and a new app from startup Inside that delivers “up to 1,000 stories each day, in tight 300-character briefs.”

These apps are more complex than a standard newspaper’s digital website. “To determine which ones to share, each app relies on its own combination of four factors: computer algorithms that gauge popularity; human editors; posts and interaction from your friends on social networks; and your own preferences,” explains Fowler.

Facebook’s Paper app connects to users’ Facebook friends, and provides a feed with the articles and links that their friends have shared. Paper also provides a unique way of browsing through stories, in an interesting and clean format. However, the review notes drawbacks.

“The awkward reality is that Facebook’s computer-assisted editors are probably better than your friends at selecting stories,” writes Fowler. “I would like to see more personalization, too, even if it’s of the programmed sort. There’s no way to choose a feed of information on a topic I created, or from a set of sources that I trust. There’s no local news, either.”

Flipboard goes one step further than Paper, and allows the user to create channels on topics that can come from news sources, Facebook friends, or Twitter profiles. The result is highly personalized, and almost guarantees the user to find articles of interest.

“I preferred Flipboard, but Paper offers a better way than ever to consume and contribute to Facebook, while taking in a much broader picture of the world,” concludes Fowler. “Though this kind of lean-back news experience presents an alternative to gobbling a never-ending supply of news nuggets, both apps face the challenge of convincing us to make time for it.”