Use of Social Readers Declining
Threatening many a publisher’s social strategy, new data suggests that consumers are not taking to so-called “social readers.”
Take the Washington Post’s Social Reader -- an app that encourages Facebook users to read and recommend stories from the Post’s Web site. AppData.com is reporting that its monthly average users (MAU) fell from 17.4 million to 9.2 million over the past 30 days.
“It would be hard to overstate the importance and centrality of the Social Reader to the Post’s strategy,” writes Forbes. “It’s in large part the promise of social-powered distribution that has induced Post chairman Don Graham to keep the paper’s digital editions free.”
“These are some fairly devastating numbers!” exclaims BuzzFeed’s John Herman. “And, anecdotally, I suspect the decline in traffic to the WaPo site is even worse as viewers -- not users -- start voting the Social-Reader-using friends out of their Newsfeeds.
WaPo, for its part, is blaming the massive MAU drop on “evolving [Facebook] modules.” That’s according to a tweet from Ryan Y. Kellet, the company’s “engagement producer.”
Translation? “In other words,” writes Herman, “social readers are appearing less prominently in users' timelines, in part due to the site's new ‘Trending Articles’ feature, which promotes (and effectively minimizes) social readers stories in one place. So it's not entirely a matter of fatigue.”
“But it doesn’t end there,” Poynter.org notes. “Similar apps from The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Mashable and MSNBC.com also lost users. And all of these appear to have suffered an unusual shock on or around April 10. (All except Social Reader and the Guardian app are seeing a rebound in May.)”
Still, “Facebook news reader apps aren’t declining because users suddenly got fed up with auto-sharing,” TechCrunch insists. “The user loss is likely due to the transition to ‘trending articles,’ a new way of surfacing recently read articles in the news feed that Facebook is testing.”
Meanwhile, the whole social reader issue has ReadWriteWeb seeing similarities between Facebook and the old America Online. “One of AOL’s downfalls was that it created a walled garden,” it writes. “Facebook has a reverse strategy, seemingly trying to pull the entire Web within its walls, and applications like social readers are part of that strategy. They are designed solely to keep users on Facebook.”