Introducing Recently Read
In the buzz of actually launching Recently Read, the new Facebook Open Graph app we built and released for F8, it struck me over the weekend that I’d neglected to actually write about what exactly drove us to build it.
Firstly, here’s the principle for those of you who may have missed it; once you opt in, when you read an article on The Independent, the fact that you’re reading it is shared back, in realtime, to Facebook for your friends to see and comment on. It’s a simple, powerful idea and a totally new way of sharing, which is why it has to come with the controls we’ve built into the experience.
The first and strongest barrier is that you have to explicitly opt in in order for any of this to happen; once you’re in, the Activity control lets you turn sharing off or back on with one click, and the “Your Activity” tab lets you delete individual articles from your recent activity. You can read more and give it a try here, which is linked to from the unit and also includes a link to opt out.
With all new social media tools, it’s edifying to see our readers sharing and discussing the stories that have really got them (and their friends and followers) interested rather than just the ones our editors think are important. Recently Read is another space for that expression to take place. Facebook’s influence thusfar on the Independent has been extremely positive; Besides the growth in referrals highlighted in Facebook’s recent case study on us, our most “liked” writer is Robert Fisk (those Open Graph likes constitute, essentially, Facebook subscriptions), and our most shared stories are often, pieces of important, serious journalism like this piece on the riots, or this from Saturday on how a wave of new building developments is threatening to ruin Mecca. Where, traditionally, a combination of publishers’ pageview-addiction and search engines’ notoriously flighty audiences have helped cultivate an editorial agenda which has sometimes bent journalism out of shape to accommodate it, social networks are succeeding in promoting really valuable content thanks to their potential for massively-distributed editorial decision-making where the audience essentially take the role of editor (an idea I fleshed out a bit earlier in the year).
On this new frontier, then, newspapers are trusting our readers to agree with us to some extent, without making it a necessity; if in the alternative world of journalistic value created by these new sub-networks of editorial decision-making we’re creating, you’re all reading and sharing something from the middle of the book that our editors thought dull but worthy, or unworthy but interesting, then so be it. We can’t stop you or the tide of attention that this sharing can bring to the shores of officially overlooked articles, and moreover we’ll be listening and trying to work out what exactly it is that makes the articles you read and share so attractive. Publishing the news, now, is a negotiation between you and us, and, you’ll be pleased to know, you have the upper hand that comes with the fact that there are more than 14 million of you reading every month.
That’s a drop in the ocean compared to Facebook’s 800 million users, mind, which is why we’re excited to be one of only five global launch partners to be able to implement this new social reading experience. So go forth, read, share, let us know what you think of the whole experience, and enjoy The Independent. We’ll continue to try and give you the best tools out there to do that in whatever way you like.F8, facebook, Recently Read, Social media, web desk
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