I previously wrote a post about the Guardian’s Facebook news app that has been dominating my Facebook homepage. In my last post about the topic, I weighed up the pros and the cons of the app and criticised it for forcing people to share content. I should explain my point of view more clearly; it is not the Guardian Facebook app that I have a problem with, but the overall concept of frictionless sharing. I think for sharing to be effective it needs to stem from a genuine desire to share material. Frictionless sharing feels almost as if you are taking away an individual’s free will, and isn’t free will part of the reason that social media is such a powerful platform?
Despite my cynicism, I do think that the Guardian Facebook app has been a step in the right direction for news publishers, afterall, it is no secret that sales of newspapers and traditional media publications are falling. When currybet hinted that they would be attending the Guardian UX mas conference to talk about the app, I knew we had to send someone from the company to find out more about how it was fairing in the storm of criticism.
What we learned from the conference may be surprising. The reception to the Guardian Facebook app was always going to be mixed and the main thing to come out of yesterday’s conference was that developers were more than prepared for that. One of the key criticisms that people have fired at Guardian app is that out-of-date articles often populate the Facebook homepages. This is not an issue with the apps themselves but rather a problem that lies within the Facebook algorithms which can explain the problems. During the UXmas conference, the developers assured us that this will all be resolved in time and already I’ve seen an improvement in the content being shared.
Apparently, Facebook were the ones who approached the Guardian to develop the app and we were told that initially, the Guardian were unsure of how to proceed with it. They had two main problems: the issue of conflicting demographics- The Guardian’s readership has traditionally been composed of older people. On Facebook, young people run the show which leads to problems relating to content. Tabloid stories featuring headlines about celebrities will always attract more readers-especially among young people, and, although the Guardian would like the hits, those kinds of stories are not usually found among the news that they typically report. For the Guardian, a big challenge was reaching out and connecting with users using content that- in terms of demographics- shouldn’t appeal to them.
In spite of this, the Guardian Facebook app has actually achieved enormous success in the months since its conception at the F8 conference. It has so far clocked up a massive 4.75 million users and managed to expand its reader base to include those who wouldn’t normal peruse the contents of the broadsheet. The app has no doubt increased the hits to its website which was no doubt the main aim of the Guardian.
The real question is, for us anyway, how has this app really affected the brand sentiment of the paper?
It is still too early to establish whether people are engaging with the Guardian as a brand as a result of the increased exposure that the app has given them. The real question for me is whether this app leads to an increase in ROI on a longterm basis?
I’ve noticed just by examining my own friends list that the Guardian app has attracted new readers, even those who would consider themselves politically incompatible with the left-wing sentiments of the paper have been reading the articles and although not much can be drawn from my casual observation, I really am left wondering whether those readers have changed their opinions on the paper, or whether they’ve merely been drawn in by a catchy headline.
Although the Guardian Facebook app has been successful, it is still in its early days and it still has to overcome many of the same challenges that every company faces with social media so it will be interesting to monitor just how they solve them in the future.Tags:Currybet, Facebook, Frictionless Sharing, Guardian, Guardian Facebook App, News Publication