Facebook is working on a service that shows news content from Facebook users and publishers and has a new design and layout customized for smartphones and tablets, sources say.
The Wall Street Journal has received word from informants that the social networking company is developing a service called Reader, an internal name for the project.
According to the report, Facebook started developing Reader more than a year ago in an attempt to create a product that displays news content. The latest Reader versions look like Flipboard, a mobile app that groups stories from a number of sources and allows users to swipe through articles.
The WSJ said it is still uncertain when Facebook will introduce or release the product, if it ever will. However, the Reader project falls in line with the company’s announcement – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s in particular – earlier this year to encourage users to spend more time on the platform through mobile devices, and eventually more Facebook ads.
One of the sources said Zuckerberg closely watches the development of Reader and has contributed and studied facets of the design.
The source added that the Reader team focuses on making a feature to determine a number of ways to show news content to Facebook users, such as trending public posts.
According to the WSJ’s sources, the Reader team focuses its energies to build for the Apple iOS mobile operating system to make the most of the design elements on iPhone and iPad devices.
The sources named Facebook designer Michael Matas, who worked for Apple and Nest Labs, as a lead designer of the Reader project.
Facebook has yet to comment on the accuracy of the sources’ claims about its plans for upcoming news apps.
The recent push toward mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, are crucial, as Facebook attempts to keep its slumping stock price afloat or raise it. Its stock price still is 35 percent lower than its price during the initial public offering.
Earlier this month, Facebook debuted hashtags, its version of the popular Twitter feature of the same name that allows users to look for public conversations through words with the pound sign, “#”, in front of it.
In addition, Facebook unveiled earlier this year a redesigned News Feed that implemented a more noticeable display of news content. At the launching event, Zuckerberg said he wants Facebook to become the top personalized news delivery platform worldwide.
Mobile news reading apps, such as Flipboard and Google Currents, gather and organize content from online news publishers and have increased popularity in the past few years. LinkedIn spent an estimated $90 million earlier this year to buy Pulse, a popular mobile news reading app. The social network for professionals wrote in a blog post that it signed the acquisition to become the ultimate publishing platform for professionals.
Even though the average time spent by consumers on mobile devices continues to increase, Facebook users who access the social network through its mobile apps often visit only for a few minutes. A more engaging feature will add opportunities for new Facebook ads. The company now earns more than 30 percent of its total revenue from mobile products and services.