‘WaPo,’ ‘Guardian’ Social Readers Bleeding Users

By David Cohen 

Do you remember all the stories about the success of Facebook social readers, including those of The Washington Post and The Guardian? Stop the presses.

Data from AppData show a dramatic plunge in monthly average users for the social reader applications of both newspapers in recent weeks, with the two apps hemorrhaging users, including over the past day and week.

The Washington Post was No. 2 on AppData’s “Top Losers Today” chart, shedding a whopping 900,000 users, and also placed second on the “Top Losers This Week” chart, seeing 4.3 million defections.

Its British counterpart, meanwhile, placed ninth on the Top Losers Today chart, at 500,000, and held the same spot on the Top Losers This Week chart, at 1.5 million.

One of the biggest concerns from a user standpoint was that Facebook users who are also heavy readers would end up spamming the newsfeeds of their friends, and Facebook appeared to be testing ways to combat that, with a new social sharing icon and a green circle with a check mark if content was being shared.

Ryan Kellett, engagement producer at The Washington Post, offered another theory, sending the following tweet, as reported by BuzzFeed:

Social reader “collapse” is b/c of evolving FB modules. Before: “double-double,” 4-5 stories down in a list, w/ friend icon – drove growth.

BuzzFeed interpreted Kellett’s tweet to mean that content from social readers has not been as prominent in users’ news feeds due to the social network’s aggregation of social reader stories as part of its test of a new trending articles feature.

However, while Kellett’s response might justify lower engagement numbers, it doesn’t explain why subscribers are leaving in droves.

Readers: Why do you think Facebook’s social reader apps are hemorrhaging users? And have any of you stopped using them? If so, why?