The official numbers are in and it looks like Facebook’s fourth quarter was full of milestones. According to the company’s Q4 2013 earnings call, Facebook has now passed 1.23 billion monthly active users (MAUs). What’s more impressive are the social network’s mobile numbers. Facebook’s mobile MAUs were 945 million and mobile DAUs were 556 million, an increase of 39 percent and 49 percent year-over-year respectively.
A lot of marketers and advertisers have been focusing on mobile as of late, and these numbers suggest that the mobile trend will continue for Facebook well into the new year. As a result, the company announced plans to shift to more standalone apps, giving small teams more freedom to build apps that meet a specific use case. The first of which, Paper, is scheduled to launch on February 3rd.
Paper is a standalone app for iOS that makes storytelling more beautiful with an immersive design and fullscreen, distraction-free layout. The app displays stories around specific interest that can be customized based on a variety of topics, including sports, business, science, world news, and so on. People can also browse the Facebook News Feed for photos, videos, and longer written posts.
In Paper, everything responds to touch so an individual can pick up or thumb through stories with simple, natural movements. The phone can be tilted to explore high-resolution panoramic photos, and see faces and other important details up close. Auto-play videos can be enjoyed in fullscreen helping to immerse the viewer in content.
Every section includes a rich mix of content from publications, bloggers, public figures, and emerging voices. Beautifully detailed covers make it easy for viewers to spot articles from trusted publishers and decide what to read or watch. Thanks to animation, articles unfold in the app and appear fullscreen for a more focused reading experience.
Marketers can even share their own stories directly within the app. When you’re ready, Paper’s composer will give you a live preview of how your story will appear to others before you publish it. You’ll know exactly which photo will be featured or if/where your article’s description will be cut off.
In the beginning, everyone who adds a Section to Paper will see the same story in it; however, Facebook is considering personalizing the sections. This means that a sports fan in Chicago might see more stories about the Bears instead of the Seahawks in the sports section over time.
Ads Free (For Now)
Despite the success of Facebook’s mobile ads — the mobile units accounted for 53 percent of the company’s total ad revenue in Q4 — Paper will launch without any kind of sponsored content. However, it’s unlikely that the ads-free state will last very long. The media has speculated that Facebook will wait to see how its members interact with the app first before introducing any ads.
It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if Facebook did venture down that avenue. The company has seen incredible growth on mobile in 2013, especially in the ads space. If Paper’s content does get more personalized, it’d be a great opportunity for brands to deliver highly-targeted mobile ads to readers or highlight sponsored Trends. Facebook, however, hasn’t provided any information about its plans to monetize Paper at the current time.
Public Posting Is Encouraged
Currently, browsing Facebook’s News Feed surfaces stories from friends and Pages people are subscribed to with the occasional Promoted Post. With Paper, Facebook can showcase content that the editors think members will enjoy. This includes stories that people wouldn’t have thought to seek out on their own, including those from authors they don’t currently subscribe to on the social network.
As a result, content highlighted in Paper could convince more people to share publicly on Facebook. Doing so would greatly impact the use of Graph Search, Facebook post embeds, Trending, and the Public Feed API. All of these features encourage real-time conversations on the social network and give provide brands with more opportunities to reach consumers.
Paper is scheduled to launch in the App Store on Monday, February 3rd, and will only be available on iPhone at launch. There is currently no Android or iPad versions of Paper, and no timeline for when they might become available. We should also note that it will only be available to individuals in the U.S.; it’s unknown when it will become available in other countries.
Depending on how Paper performs, it’s possible that we could see more standalone apps from Facebook. As Mark Zuckerberg suggested, Groups and Events could be two features unbundled from the main app. Both products are successful — there are more than 500 million people using Groups now — and standalone apps would appeal to a very specific use case and audience. We’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds.
In the meantime, marketers, publishers, and content creators are encouraged to review their content strategies before downloading Paper on February 3rd. With a renewed focus on mobile content, you’ll want to make sure that the articles and videos you’re sharing are optimized for mobile screens.
Jennifer Beese: Jennifer Beese has worked as a community manager and social media strategist. When she’s not writing, you can find her studying anatomy and physiology—she literally has a skeleton in her closet—or under the stars with her telescope.