Facebook Social Reader Engagement is Cratering
The Washington Post was the first publication to experiment with a “frictionless” social reader app, which launched last year. If you use Facebook you’ve probably come across it: it manifests as a clustered list of stories that are almost completely unrelated except for the fact that they all come from the same publication.
If you decide to click on a link it doesn’t take you to the story. Instead, it shunts you over to a signup screen for Social Reader, which you have to accept if you want to make it through to the site. This forceful behavior is how the Post’s reader app gained tens of millions of users in a few short months; it’s also how, as Jeff Bercovici at Forbes pointed out this morning, the Washington Post seems to have worn its readers — or Facebook — out. They’re annoyed, and they’re quitting in droves.
Even worse, the tool had been getting more than 4 million daily users as recently as the second week of April, but ended up near zero for most of the rest of the month and is currently wallowing at around 220,000 daily. The publication’s social reader is advertised with this catchy plug: “News travels fast on Washington Post Social Reader. Get articles from the Web’s best sources, instantly share the stories you read with your friends, and see what your friends are reading. Start spreading the news!”
But what seems clear is that the only thing that’s spreading is a viral disgust with the application.
The same seems to hold true of other social readers. Dailymotion, which is a video site that features a social-reading app, also seems to be hemorrhaging users, dropping from a high of about 3.5 million in early April to about 670,000 today. And The Guardian, which topped out at nearly 6 million monthly average users and was still at 5.5 million last week, has now fallen to 3.9 million monthly average users.
FJP: Possible cause — interface design within Facebook is annoying. A user shares an article, you’re interested so select a link but instead of going to the article you’re brought to an interstitial page where you’re required to sign up for the app in order to access the content.
Second possible cause — as we share and share and share, we’re beginning to realize that a lot of what we read is a bit silly and it might be better not to share so much.
Third possible cause — as suggested by the Washington Post’s Engagement Producer Ryan Kellet, Facebook’s “Trending Articles” feature is superseding Social Reader stories by decreasing their prominence and bucketing “most important” stories all in one place. Again, an interface issue. — Michael