Can Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook Replace Newspapers?

By Jordan Mammo , Mar 10, 2013 09:14 AM EDT

Facebook has redesigned their news feed and, surprisingly, not everyone hates it. In fact, so far it's been drawing positive reviews from all corners of the Internet.

Perhaps more surprising than the positive reception, however, was Facebook's stated goal.

"What we're trying to do is give everyone in the world the best personalized newspaper," Mark Zuckerberg said as he revealed the updated news feed.

Considering the widely held view that newspapers are dying, his comment was unexpected, to say the least. But there are a number of ways that Facebook is already like a local paper, and its newspaper-like function may only grow as the print field continues to struggle.

As Nathaniel Mott writes in PandoDaily, Facebook already serves a lot of the purposes that a newspaper does. It informs people about what's happening in their community via updates through friends (weddings, promotions, deaths, etc.). It notifies them of upcoming events they might be interested in attending. It recommends movies, music, books, and other materials. And it allows them to engage in debates about local, national, and global topics.

Much like any other newspaper, Facebook also relies on advertisers to generate profit and keep itself in business. The new feed is intended to offer "vibrant new visuals" that will be "brighter" more "colorful," and more "beautiful." Coincidentally, this will allow advertisers to more effectively target their ads to receptive audiences.

The new design, with its customizable news feeds, is Facebook's attempt to drive up user engagement. It's not just making a more appealing design for users, it's also doing it for third parties. Advertisers will benefit, but so will other services who want to reach people. As The Verge notes, the new Facebook design presents Spotify and Flickr content better than the originals. The downside, of course, is that by using Facebook to access these services, Spotify and others may lose engagement with their own, specific apps.

Facebook doesn't care, though; in fact, that's exactly what it wants. If it can keep users checking the site often and for longer periods of time, Facebook itself becomes your main stream of information. Not only will users get updates from their friends, photos, and all those interpersonal features that made Facebook boom in the first place, it will also be home to updates from various third parties that users like, such as Spotify. Publications like the New York Times or other web sites can link to their articles with beautiful, appealing images, and advertisements will be presented with a look more suitable for magazine pages than typical web ads.

Ideally, Facebook wants to become your main hub, the gate through which you access everything else online. The important question is whether or not it will succeed.

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