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February 4, 2014 / Gina D.

Facebook Paper: News you didn’t choose

Facebook, you are one tricky bastard.

Took a few minutes on a pretty busy Monday to download the social media giant’s new app — Paper — so I could run it through some quick paces, gather some fast intel, and see if any of my hopes and fears had come true. Whether I accurately articulated my predictions enough in my previous blog post about Facebook’s Paper, my first impressions are that it’s pretty much exactly what I expected.

And then I freaked out — because I forgot to mute my phone and the initial launch automatically rolled an interactive full of voice commands that scared the crap out of me.

But that was only the beginning of my annoyance.

        

A PERCEPTION OF CHOICE

Speaking as a user, I have to say that I was pretty frustrated to realize Facebook seems to have set itself up to make a lot of the decisions about what its Paper will show me. I haven’t liked a smattering of the pages feeding into my “Headlines” feed, and I don’t appreciate — again, as a USER (OK, a rather biased user) — where it thinks I should find my news. That said, I was pretty entertained that BuzzFeed has indeed been relegated to the dregs of media, forced to wallow around in the NewsFeed of my app with the local press.

Also, I resent the hell out of the fact that I can’t designate what categories things I follow feed into. Seems like it would have been clever of Facebook to allow me to put the professional photographers and artists I follow into the photo section. The fact that I can’t group them thusly frankly doesn’t make me want to tap this app. And whose “Ideas” are these in the Ideas section, exactly?

Mostly, the app feels like “FACEBOOK PICKS THE NEWS — NOW WITH (bits of) YOUR NEWS FEED TACKED ON!” My news feed in the Paper app doesn’t reflect any news feed I can view by checking the page myself (not “Top Posts,” not “Most Recent”), and I have no idea how to refresh that feed on the app. Guess I have to take it on faith that if one of my friends posts something big, well, Facebook will surely let me know — if Facebook deems it worthy. (Am I even cool enough to be on Facebook anymore? I feel like I need to ask Zuckerberg whether I’m still allowed…)

Mashable proclaims: “Don’t call it a media company.” Agreed. Kinda reminiscent of an ONA12 panel I observed wherein the editor of Facebook Stories got pretty defensive when it was suggested she wasn’t an editor.

At first blush, this app seems to pander to big media, with the likes of the New York Times, CNN, Bloomberg, The Guardian, The Daily Beast, WaPo, HuffPo, Time, BBC, The Atlantic, the L.A. Times, etc., parading through the Headlines section. Nope. No local banners there. Oh, and hey — there’s all those big names again in my regular Facebook feed. It just doesn’t seem fair.

Dig deeper and it becomes apparent that even without a solid feed of local news, there’s enough here for Facebookers to gravitate toward. They’re just going to have to decide whether they will trade the memes for dealer’s choice topics with cookie-cutter information streams.

NOT ANGRY ANCHORMAN

THE ‘OOO’ FACTOR

The app is slick. The interface is all you thought it would be and more. It’s intuitive, and it makes me want to use it. That tilt-to-pan gesture is pretty darn cool (I suggest not enabling the “autopan” setting, though). The flip-up / flip-down reader is going to make me use that gesture with every browser app I use, and then be severely bummed when I remember I’m not using Paper and have to close it the other-fashioned way.

The down side: It absolutely killed the battery on my phone. Forget the updating feeds, with all those photos fading in and out, my iPhone (5, if it matters) didn’t stand a chance. I’ll have to test it more scientifically, but I can tell you that I left my phone sitting on my desk with the app in play, got busy doing some other stuff, and about an hour later (maybe a little more), my battery is beeping at me that it had run down to about 20%. NOT COOL. And all that for only about 10 posts per section. Seems a poor trade-off.

Also, it’s pretty irritating when you’re reading a link you want to tweet, and then — Hey, you’re in Facebook, dummy! NO TWEETS FOR YOU. …Oh, but I can send to Pocket? Meh. Thanks, I guess.

Of course, the money question is… What will all of this coolness do to local media referrals? Facebook has been a growing source of views for most media outlets, and especially those you’re apparently not going to see in the Headlines section anytime soon. But let’s put that aside.

It’s time once again to dust off the ol’ Facebook best-practices guides, see what still applies and strikethrough the rest (for the love of God, don’t delete it; it might apply again after the next update).

20140203-232202.jpg   20140203-232146.jpg   20140203-232214.jpg

WHAT (NOT) TO DO?

So, pictures are still a good idea… as long as you think a little about how you want the post to look and don’t favor one post format style over the others.

Posting a photo (like one you upload, not one that’s embedded in your link) means you lose your logo, so make sure it’s worth it. Sure your pic will get some added attention, but it’s going to compete with all the other pics out there once pubs start catching on. Example: One of my Facebook friends posted a pic of a recliner — granted it was a decent pic, maybe even a product shot, but still… — while I was giving this app a test-drive. Like it or not, that, my friends, will be your competition in the image category.

The hardest part is going to be dealing with so many aspect rations. Seems like auto-cropping is going to kick in one way or another, be it in Paper or just in the Facebook app/page itself. I’d suggest vertical pics if not for that cool panning feature that’s seems much more optimized when you post a horizontal. Yet, embedded-image link posts optimize  square pics. OH, THE INCONSISTENCY!

Actually, if you think about it, it’s available versatility. Options. Now you you have a handful of ways you can creatively post a pic, depending on what you’re trying to highlight. Of course, if you’re trying to manage a bunch of accounts at once, all that potential individuality is time you can’t afford to spend. Just remember you’ve got one more shape in the mix now, so be careful when you’re posting an image that isn’t versatile.

Now, about those memes…

FACEBOOK PAPER MONOCLE CAT

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