How Facebook Paper could evolve into the greatest marketing channel that ever was

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Deep down, Google must know that AdWords – the multibillion dollar foundation of its current business model – is an ephemeral gift from the internet gods.

In the not-too-distant future, keyword search (the blue-links-and-a-bunch-of AdWords kind) will decline and fall away, replaced by intelligent agents like Siri and Google Now and a push-based model of information gathering, where the knowledge and information we want and the memes we enjoy (perhaps curated by a cyborg mix of human editor and machine algorithm) come to us, instead of us manually searching for them.

In case you’ve always wondered why Facebook and Google are antagonists, and why Google built Google+, this is one large reason: the future of marketing and advertising is precision-targeted content delivered to us, and the best way to target this content is to amass tons of data about the individuals consuming it.

Facebook has this data. Google does not.

To put this concept in more concrete terms: Facebook knows your demographics. It knows what content you’ve shared, what apps you’ve used, what you listen to most on Spotify, the movies and TV shows you’ve watched on Netflix, who your friends are and what they like, and on and on and on.

Right now, Facebook uses its data and its mobile newsfeed to help mobile apps–especially games–get the installs they need from the audience they want, and does it better and more efficiently than anyone else.

This ability to combine personal data and newsfeed distribution into a highly-effective channel for getting new users has turned these mobile ads into the majority of Facebook’s revenue.

But the design limitations of the newsfeed make it less-than-ideal for high-end (or even low-end) marketing content.

Facebook Paper could change all that.

Touching Paper

Despite some flaws with the interface (the text in the updates is tiny and hard to read), Facebook’s Paper is what all native mobile apps should aspire to be: an experience crafted top-to-bottom for the unique magic of touch. It is a complete complete reimagining of the Facebook experience(2)– one that throws away the conventions of the desktop and places Facebook firmly, beautifully, into the touchscreen world.

With Paper, Facebook can use its data to deliver you the best mobile content discovery and consumption experience around: a multimedia-rich morning, afternoon, or evening newspaper, meme-delivery device, personalized magazine, etc, filled with whatever kinds of content floats your boat.

Based on exactly this data about what floats your boat, Facebook’s marketing and advertising customers will also be able to target you and your friends with all types of beautiful interactive content.

If these marketers become proficient at this sort of marketing, their content will become indistinguishable from the kind of content you enjoy consuming.

It could be something as simple as a suggestion to install a game you’ll probably like – the ads that do incredibly well for Facebook today. Or it could far grander and more brand-friendly (read: $$$) than that: an artistically-designed text-and-photo article that builds your awareness; An eBook that makes you better at your job; A memorable video.

If and when this happens, Facebook Paper will become the marketing channel of every marketer’s dreams: a way to reach exactly the audience you want, with the messages you want, in visually-stunning, engaging ways.

It is a beautiful thing.

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