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Fabric and News with Friends apps: what publishers need to know

Social media is the scrapbook for the digitally native generation, those young people tagged ‘Gen Z‘ who now make up a quarter of the US population. Sending letters or printing out photographs are a thing of the past, instead, memories are woven into Facebook messages and Instagram posts. Yet, with the recent backlash Facebook has received over privacy issues and much more besides, it’s become hard for this demographic cohort to know what to do with their digital assets.

Enter Fabric, a new social media app from two former Facebook developers, which aims to protect these memories. The team behind fabric has built-in many of Facebook’s major features, such as Timeline, On This Day, Year in Review and Friendship Page, all elements of the social network that enshrine users activities in memoriam.

Fabric looks similar to any other app social app; it’s slick with clean lines and the necessary Timeline feature that all social apps depend on. However, instead of posting a status update or an image, posts take the form of stories or a Moment. In a similar way to how users can create a story on Instagram, users can build a Moment on Fabric’s app, that includes locations, photos, people and anecdotes of what happened.

The app allows users to “jump into their past” to explore and relive shared and individual moments posted on the app. Users can also create Memories based on certain locations. This may be particularly useful for travel publishers, who can create a mini scrapbook of each visited location. These memories are all indexed on the app to make it searchable.

“We started Fabric with a bold mission: to help people remember more of their life stories. We believe everyone’s story is important and everyone should be able to reconnect with the uniquely meaningful experiences in their lives,” explains Fabric’s founder Arun Vijayvergiyain on Fabric’s blog. He adds,

Fabric is more than an app that indexes your location. Fabric is a way to index how you spend your time.

The app is available to download only on iOS at the moment. But, there is a Fabric desktop web version, which is currently in beta. In the future, Fabric will cement its revenue stream by charging users subscription fees, but currently the app remains free to use.

News with Friends

After being heavily criticised for its role in spreading ‘fake news’, Facebook announced a considerable change to its algorithm in January, which affected the posts that audiences scroll past on their News Feed. Although the impact of these changes has not been uniform, with some publishers suffering far more than others, it has created a gap in the news-sharing market with new, smaller players springing up to inhabit the vacuum.

Matt McAlister, CEO of media research company Kaleida, is behind the launch of News With Friends, an app that does exactly what it says on the tin: allowing the public to follow the news and share it with those they know.

“We noticed Facebook’s impact on news beginning to decline in May 2017,” said McAlister. “The cause for all this is unclear. One possible explanation is that the decline was already happening organically through negative network effects and so Facebook put a spin on the trend to make it appear intentional.”

Regardless, Kaleida knew from their research that people were actively looking for news and they like using platforms to discover stories, so Facebook’s departure from news opened a window for launching the new app.

News With Friends uses an algorithm which ranks stories based on editorial choices, observed from leading publishers; through their tools which put stories in context and enable people to compare and contrast views; and via the social features that fuel informed and intimate conversation.

The app hasn’t got any “like” or “react” functions. Readers share stories in a chat with their contacts on News With Friends placing greater emphasis on the ‘news’ itself rather than worrying about user interaction and the complications that come with it. “People in the chat can continue to share more stories together and to talk about anything there. As it’s a private space, the chat can feel like having coffee with someone and talking about what’s going on in the world today,” he added.

It’s now live in the App Store, and the Android version is set to make an appearance soon.

Good enough for Generation Z?

Shane Smith, journalist and founder of Vice once said, “Millenials love news, but how it is presented to them is what is key in their participation in politics and pluralistic debate.” He’s right. There’s a common misconception associated with Millennials and Generation Z, that they are disinterested in politics and all things that carry a level of responsibility.

It’s a stigma that has quickly become broken, however. The turnout for 18-25-year-olds in the UK general election was its highest in 25 years according to an analysis by Ipsos MORI – proof that with the right presentation, Generation Z can have a significant influence in public debate.

This is where News with Friends has the potential to be influential – because of its presentation of news. By presenting a wide variety of sources, without the problematic algorithm associated with Facebook’s fake news disaster, bundled with the ability to share stories with contacts, all housed in a simplistic app, the app has the potential to become a real influence in the hands of Generation Z.

Bundled with the ability to share stories with contacts, all housed in a simplistic app, the app has the potential to become a real influence in the hands of Generation Z.

The concern lies with Fabric. In this digital era, there’s nothing Generation Z love more than taking and sharing photos. Whether it’s snapping a selfie or sharing the perfect timelapse, Gen Z is all over it. And that’s the just the problem – everyone’s doing it. Now although this makes for a very big market with the potential for exponential growth on an unimaginable scale, the problems occur when new apps, such as Fabric, go up against the big players such as Instagram and Snapchat.

Fabric combines the popular features from Instagram and Snapchat to make one app where users can share and relive moments. However, the problem with combining two elements of two of the most popular apps on the digital market is that its nothing new. If its nothing new, why would a digital native shift from something that already works and on a scale that is unprecedented? Communication is key amongst Generation Z, they grew with a smartphone in one hand and a TV remote in the other, so with Instagram having reached a billion users, it’s hard to imagine why people would make the switch.

And yes, this writer belongs to Generation Z.



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