Earlier this week, we reported that for more than a year Facebook has been quietly working on a service called Reader that could essentially become a newspaper for mobile devices. As Google retires its RSS news reader on Monday, Facebook Reader could become an opportunity for the social giant to increase engagement and create a viable ad channel. However, there is a question regarding whether Facebook can offer a mobile app that competes with existing readers.
“Google Reader has millions of dedicated users scrambling to find alternatives before the July 1 kill date, and contenders have emerged from the likes of Digg, AOL and NetNewsWire,” reports Wired. “The RSS reader Feedly has seen its user base triple since Google announced its reader was going the way of the ghost.”
Facebook may not benefit by offering a reader based on RSS standards, which is more of a niche audience. Facebook’s appeal may be more mainstream, and typical users may not relate to RSS feeds.
Facebook’s Reader is reported to be more visual and gesture-oriented, similar to new apps, such as Pulse and Flipboard. This method may encourage more browsing over RSS delivery, and this approach may be more successful as Facebook is already a channel for news sites.
Reader is not Facebook’s first attempt at aggregating news. It initially offered “Social Readers” that showed what news stories friends were reading, but users responded negatively.
Despite its earlier failure, Facebook remains a strong driver for news outlets. Most news publications offer Facebook sharing on a daily basis.
The important point is whether Facebook can organize its News Feed as a true news reader, rather than relying on users stumbling upon whatever posts are shared by friends.
If Facebook can incorporate more dedicated reader features, utilize its strengths in content discovery and as a destination for personal networking, perhaps users will take Facebook seriously as a source for news.