Facebook to become news app?

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Facebook has been quietly working on a service which it calls Reader (an internal, development codename) that displays user content in a visual format for mobile devices. The app’s existence and development broke in the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal says that the project has been in development for over a year and is designed to showcase news content in a way similar to Flipboard. Its emphasis is on news-related content, as in shared stories from news outlets and blogs, with an eye towards advertising.

With 1.1 billions users worldwide, Facebook is facing lagging stock prices and has been having trouble showing marked profit versus its high costs of business.

Lately, the social network has been pushing itself as a hub for users to track not only friends and family, but to find news, real-time event information, and the conversations surrounding them.  With the hashtags rollout and a re-designed news feed page for users, a mobile offering along the same bent would not be out of the question.

Rivals like LinkedIn have already acquired news aggregates (in their case Pulse) with an eye towards a similar goal.

Facebook has hundreds of millions of mobile users, but they often interact in spurts and short sessions rather than for longer periods as desktop and notebook users do. To change that, Facebook will have to be more interactive with the mobile user and this Reader program may be their way of doing that.

Currently, Facebook is accessed by about half its users through mobile devices at least some of the time, but generates only about a third of its revenue from mobile. Rivals like Twitter and LinkedIn are already pushing themselves as a news source, so Facebook will have its hands full should it enter that market.