Forbes writer Jeff Bercovici pointed to figures compiled by AppData illustrating a significant decline in the Washington Post Social Reader app’s readers. The statistics show that readership dropped from 17.4 million to 9.2 million readers in the last month. The same trend has been seen in recent weeks on The Guardian’s social reader. John Hermann at Buzzfeed said that similar figures were emerging across many news publications.
Social reader apps were first introduced by Facebook in September. The apps allow users to share anything that they read, listen to or consume directly to their friends’ newsfeeds. When they launched social readers, Facebook described the effect as ‘seamless sharing’, which would essentially allow people to share their day to day interests without actually having to press a ‘like’ or ‘recommend’. Social readers also allow publications to serve trending content more easily.
Herrman suggests that the reason for the decline is that the apps are simply ‘annoying’. He suggests that social readers are irritating both because users don’t want to share every story they read and because the overall effect has become akin to spam email.
A spokesperson from Facebook told Mashable that although the number of people using social reader apps has fallen at some publications, overall engagement levels are up. Facebook argues that while fewer people may be reading with the content, they are reacting to it with more comments and likes.
Tha Atlantic Wire attributes the downward trend to changes made by Facebook itself. Specifically that articles shared through social readers no longer display a user photograph, and appear on news feeds less frequently.
Facebook said that although some apps have seen “short-term traffic swings,” they will settle down.