Facebook designing Flipboard-style news reader app, report says

facebookappFacebook is working on a mobile news reader app similar to Flipboard to display content from various sources in a magazine-style format, the Wall Street Journal said in a report Sunday.

Citing “people with knowledge of the matter”, the Journal said the social networking giant had been working “quietly” on the service – known internally as Reader – for more than a year, though it remains unclear whether there are currently any concrete plans for a release. It’s also not known if the project involves a stand-alone app or software that would be integrated into the company’s existing offerings.

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg is said to be working closely with the team behind the long-running project, offering input and opinions on features and design.

The revelation, which comes a week after the discovery of an RSS reader hidden in Facebook’s Graph API code, is another signal of the company’s intention to push further into the mobile space in an effort to continue building its already massive user base while at the same time increasing revenue via mobile advertising.

Zuckerberg and his team in April rolled out Facebook Home, mobile software designed to take the place of the usual Android home screen and give the social networking site a more prominent position on handsets. It’s also recently introduced hashtags to its service, a feature long-used by a slew of other mobile apps such as Twitter and Instagram.

The Journal reported that while mobile users are spending more and more time with their mobile devices, users of Facebook usually drop in for just a few minutes at a time. “A more immersive experience [with Reader] could open up new ad models for Facebook, which now generates about a third of its revenue from mobile,” people familiar with Facebook’s mobile strategy told the Journal.

However, Facebook will have its work cut out if it wants to make news a significant part of its plans to conquer mobile. Twitter is already doing very nicely in that department, and Flipboard – the news-reading app upon which Reader is said to be based – enjoys a user base of more than 50 million.

There is, of course, a lot of movement in the news reader space just now, with Google set to close down its Reader service at the start of July, leaving many looking for a new service. However, its soon-to-be-shuttered offering is aimed more at serious news junkies, whereas Facebook’s Reader appears to have taken the magazine-style route.

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