Talking tech since 2003

If you’ve been looking for an official, Facebook-developed way to read updates from your friends alongside interesting news stories, you’re in luck. Facebook this morning announced a brand new app called Paper, which will first be available for U.S. iPhone users on Feb. 3. Paper puts the Facebook News Feed into a magazine-like format and does the same for stories from major news outlets, turning the traditional idea of the vertical scrolling News Feed on its head.

But after watching the Paper video Facebook put up this morning and reading about the app’s features, I get the sense that this app isn’t really covering new ground.

Introducing Paper from Facebook on Vimeo.

facebook-icon.pngFacebook Paper looks good, don’t get me wrong. But there’s a pretty well-known and well-regarded app out there that can connect to Facebook and display news stories in a magazine-like style already. It’s called Flipboard. And, in addition to Facebook, that app can add a host of other social networks, new sources, blogs, and so on. Flipboard has curated topic sections that can be added to your source list, and users can even curate their own magazines with content based around a certain topic.

Viewing Facebook Paper in that context makes the app seem a lot less impressive.

Will I be downloading the Paper app on Feb. 3? Absolutely. I want to get a feel for the app, as it could be the direction the company takes the main Facebook app in the future (see Messenger and Camera). At this point, though, Paper is feeling like more of a response to apps like Flipboard, and Facebook doesn’t typically do the response thing well (Camera vs. Instagram, Poke vs. Snapchat).

The company is pretty good at buying, though, and Flipboard’s valuation currently sits around $800 million. Some food for thought.

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