Facebook has released a new mobile app in the US called ‘Paper’, which marks a significant shift for the company.
While the app has many of the same functions of the standard Facebook mobile app that we know and love, it also comes with radical changes to the interface design and end-user experience.
Perhaps most interesting though, is the effect that these design changes could have on advertising content.
Paper is stunningly beautiful. Its clean, flat design looks like last April’s Facebook Home skin for Android, combined with the card interface of Palm’s WebOS, then mixed with supermodel DNA. Facebook positions this new aesthetic as ‘Beautiful storytelling’ and that’s certainly what it looks like so far.
Unlike the perpetual scrolling of the standard Facebook mobile app, Paper lets users switch between two modes of viewing. Post-by-post full screen viewing, and card-like ‘sections’ for faster browsing.
Paper also moves one step closer to digital publishing by allowing you to discover new public content through subjects like ‘Headlines’, ‘Cute’ and ‘LOL’, in addition to the regular newsfeed stories you’ll see from your friends.
These new ways that Paper presents users with content, as well as the re-designed interface they can use to engage with it, both seem to be geared towards changing fundamental behaviors of Facebook users.
Post-by-post full screen browsing requires far more user-input than perpetual scrolling – more clicks, more swipes, and more viewing time. The move to the card-style system also decreases users’ ability to rapidly scroll over stories, making them more likely to engage with content than miss it.
For a company that charges advertisers based on user behaviours, this is a pretty important set of changes. Though Paper doesn’t currently feature advertising content, it will inevitably come. And when it does, things will start to look very different.
Last year, Facebook introduced a “Cost Per Action” (CPA) billing option in its Ads platform, which allowed advertisers to define specific parameters that their campaigns would be billed against – for example, based on the new page likes that resulted from an ad campaign. This presented a far more tangible set of metrics, and therefore ROI, for advertisers than the traditional pay per click and cost per thousand impressions advertising models.
Paper’s new content and user interface changes could significantly increase the volume of actions and clicks from individual users while they’re consuming content. More actions, increased engagement and longer viewing times could present advertisers with a double-edged sword though.
On the one hand engagement with sponsored content will increase, but on a CPA and CPC basis this could also see campaign budgets spent much quicker – unless more actions simultaneously drives CPA and CPC prices down.
We will have to wait and see what the impact of Paper on engagement and advertising will be, but this really does enforce the fact that simple changes in content and user experience design can make a huge difference to engagement and ROI.
Dave Goodfellow is a social media strategist at Rinsed.
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