‘The Guardian’ To Pull The Plug On Its Facebook Social Reader App

By David Cohen 

U.K. newspaper The Guardian will pull the plug on its Facebook social reader application Monday, sending users who click on its links on the social network directly to its website, rather than to pages within Facebook.

The Guardian Facebook app debuted in conjunction with the social network’s launch of open graph in September 2011. Much like the other social reader apps from news outlets including Yahoo News, The Washington Post, and fellow U.K. newspaper The Independent, the app enabled Facebook users to read and share the newspaper’s content within the Facebook environment, with stories they consumed in this fashion shared on their friends’ news feeds and tickers, as well as on their own timelines.

Facebook’s social reader apps have had their ups and downs, helping to drive engagement and traffic for the news sources, but at the same time seeing their user numbers dwindle due to concerns about oversharing and spamming friends’ news feeds.

The Guardian had several positive things to say about its Facebook app in a blog post announcing its upcoming move:

For us, we were interested in understanding whether readers would engage with our content in a different way. No additional editorial effort was invested in any aspect of the app so, in effect, the performance was entirely social.

Implementing the reading experience within Facebook was also a conscious decision to give us space to experiment away from the main Guardian website.

In the months following the launch, we saw tremendous volumes of traffic being generated by the app. Over 12 million Facebook users have authenticated The Guardian Facebook app since launch, and at its peak (April 2012), we were seeing 6 million active monthly users.

The Facebook app has given us access to a hard-to-reach audience and has helped us learn much more about our new and existing readership which, as a digital-first organization, is crucial.

The app has also played an integral role in helping us understand best practices for the social discovery of news, and a few months ago, the app enabled us to implement social login on guardian.co.uk, which means that users can now register on The Guardian using their Facebook details for a more social experience on the site.

In light of this, we have decided to switch our focus to creating more social participation for our users on our own core properties, beginning with guardian.co.uk.

As part of this switch in focus, starting Monday, Dec. 17, we will begin directing users who click on a Guardian link within Facebook straight to our website to view articles, so over time, all users will no longer be shown the content on a page within Facebook.

At The Guardian, we take the view that we need to be in a position to work with platforms as they evolve, and with users as they explore new ways of interacting with our content. The way we prefer to do this is to experiment and learn what works. This is an example of that approach, and we think the next incarnation of social participation will be a useful enhancement to The Guardian site.

Readers: Do you think other news organizations with social reader apps are pondering similar moves?