A year ago, several major news organizations, including The Guardian, Yahoo News and The Washington Post Co., launched "social news apps" on Facebook. These apps leveraged Facebook's Open Graph technology to help users discover what their friends were reading and enjoyed rapid adoption. At its peak in April 2012, The Guardian says its app had 6 million active monthly users, and sent "tremendous volumes of traffic" to its stories.
After several rounds of adjustments to Facebook's News Feed, which have dramatically decreased the amount of traffic sent to most publishers' apps, as well as user complaints about privacy settings, news organizations are no longer so enthused about the apps they developed for Facebook's platform. On Thursday, The Guardian announced it would no longer display articles in its Facebook app; instead, it would redirect readers to its website after clicking on a headline in the app.
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The Washington Post's new standalone Social Reader still looks and functions much like the Facebook original, and will leverage Facebook data to deliver a personalized newsfeed to readers, says Vijay Ravindran, chief digital officer of The Washington Post Co. The new Reader includes tools that gives readers greater privacy control: Specifically, users no longer need to log in to Facebook to use the app, and those who do log in can control whether their friends can see their reading history."We really wanted to provide a more personalized and private experience," Ravindran told E News in an interview about the changes.
Beyond better privacy controls, the new app also allows for more seamless sharing to networks beyond Facebook, including Twitter. Ravindran indicated the app may eventually serve up news based on data from multiple social graphs, a la Flipboard.
Facebook, for its part, says it has now "evolved [its] guidance for publishers to encourage them to focus on distributing content through tools such as the share and Like buttons," according to a spokesperson. As such, we can expect The Guardian and The Washington Post Company won't be the only organizations to refocus the resources they poured into their Facebook apps.