‘Paper’ App Sidesteps PR Presence

On Feb 3, Facebook launched a new media-reading app called Paper. It’s designed to ease the task of keeping track of the latest headlines, photos and video by putting the content into one user-friendly app.

Paper, Facebook's new app, launched Monday, Feb. 3, 2014.

Paper, Facebook’s new app, launched Monday, Feb. 3, 2014.

The day after Paper launched, The Wall Street Journal posted a review comparing it to a similar app called Flipboard. Although both apps differed in their appeal to users, they both pull information from a variety of sources. Facebook uses computer algorithms that gauge popularity, human editors, posts and interactions from your friends, and your own personal preferences.

When users start to use the app you are brought to your Facebook screen and there is a stream of content from your friends including posts and links. Most of the news content, however, is selected from algorithms and editors monitoring the news — meaning users will be provided the same news stories as of that moment. The app’s connection though Facebook will also allow content to be shared more easily through the app interface.

All Paper users will have the opportunity to see content from Facebook friends.

All Paper users will have the opportunity to see content from Facebook friends which can be accessed through their main dashboard.

Paper was designed after research revealed that more Americans are using Facebook to gather news. According to an October 2013 Pew Research study, 30 percent of Americans named Facebook as a place where they go to find news. Other research has shown that a majority of Facebook users access the site on mobile devices versus a computer, which explains why the app is available on mobile devices.

Paper is a great place to feature top news stories, but there is no right column advertisements, sponsored posts, or posts from brands. This is a difficulty for those social media brand representatives and a possible plus for journalists and publishers.

The question is what can an app like Paper do for public relations practitioners? According to an article in PR Week, the answer remains unclear.

"Headlines" is one of the options a user can choose to show up on their main screen.

“Headlines” is one of the options a user can choose to show up on their main screen’s dashboard.

Public relations will most likely have little involvement with Paper because the content is typically decided by the app itself. Although the app will allow users to acquire content from their friends list — favoring content higher if the users interact frequently — the news is predetermined.

The only potential benefit Paper could have for public relations practitioners is securing content in the stories that every user of Paper will see, but that will be a challenge based on what the algorithms and editors of Paper use.

Do you think that Paper will be a great media-reading app? If so, what does this mean for public relations?

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7 Responses to ‘Paper’ App Sidesteps PR Presence

  1. Patricia Oliverio-Lauderdale says:

    Great post Emily! I just recently heard about Paper and thought it sounded similar to Flipboard so I am happy someone decided to blog on this topic. This post is informative, and I appreciate the links you provided. I had not seen the review by The Wall Street Journal before reading this and it really interested me. It is true that both apps are great ways to collect news important to the reader without having to click on one link and then another right after. It presents stories in a clean, orderly fashion. It seemed from the review that The Wall Street Journal writer preferred Flipboard because he had more control over what news was important to him specifically, rather than just important to his Facebook friends. Paper showed him what was popular in general but not necessarily what he would be interested in reading. I know I would agree that not everything my Facebook friends share is news to me or even topics I am interested in reading. That makes me wonder what the definition of news is becoming. Is news defined as stories that you, the reader, are only interested in? Or is news defined as stories that your friends or the media deem important?

    I think news apps like Paper and Flipboard will give public relations professionals a huge advantage. Not only will they be able to promote more content for their company or clients directly onto Facebook without having to use journalists, but they will be able to target the kind of individuals interested in their content. The more they utilize social media and share stories, the more likely these stories will end up on these apps and in the hands of influential people.

  2. Christie Poole says:

    I read that WSJ article earlier in the week and couldn’t wait to download these apps. I actually think Flipboard sounds like a more resourceful application because it feeds you the most important news, whereas Paper appears to give you more what’s “popular.” Regardless, I think the PR implications for both apps are the same. It is impossible to pitch reporters and calculate how popular their stories will become (making them shareable — thus appearing on the front page of the apps). The best thing PR practitioners can do is make sure they are pitching their stories to the best reporters at the best outlets — and if they don’t need to give a first pass at stories to certain reporters, they can pitch the story to multiple outlets, aiming for placements across multiple publications.

    Although I don’t think it means much for public relations, I do think that these apps are carving the way for the future in terms of media-reading. Hopefully, apps like this will encourage our generation to keep up with the news more.

  3. Meenah Rincon says:

    Although I have not used the app Paper, I have used Flipboard. If the concept is the same, I don’t think that PR practitioners will benefit from it when it comes to pitching stories. No one goes online and says, “Let’s see what juicy press release I can find today.” I do think it would be a great tool for PR if the app can determine what type of news, company, topic, etc. you search for on a daily basis. I think it would be a great way for a practitioner to monitor how much or what kind of press coverage a company or client is getting.

  4. Tory Stangl says:

    I think that because PR practitioners often use social media and various news outlets to push information or to publicize an event, they aren’t seeing an app like this as an advantage. I think that is an error. If you look at an app like this, you can determine what is truly newsworthy to your peers and that seems like an obvious advantage to me. I think that it will push PR practitioners to be more newsworthy and it will also help them to stay on top of the current trends and stories.

  5. Kaitlyn Carl says:

    I have high hopes for Paper, as I think it is going to be a great media-reading app. Paper will act as the “Google alert” for Facebook, due to the fact that it will only be showing what the reader is interested in and wants to see. Paper will make it much easier to track and view the industry that one’s clients are part of and overall industry trends.

  6. Zander Buel says:

    Paper needs to filter out “news” from Buzzfeed, Upworthy, Huffington Post, and other related sites before public relations practitioners use the app for tracking content to use to their advantage.

  7. Megan Miller says:

    This app seems very interesting and I think it could greatly benefit the PR industry, just not yet. PR practitioners have mastered the media relations with traditional and new-age digital media, but gaining control of apps and smartphones could be an innovation to our industry.

    With that said, I see potential for future apps. However, it seems like Paper is too controlled by its editors. Once the app is received by the public, it seems like PR practitioners would be able to perform research and build off the perceptions of the app users then continue to build off their research to incorporate their media relations into new apps.

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