Coinciding with the release of the mobile Facebook app for iPad, the Huffington Post has announced its new HuffPost for Facebook app. The app was inspired by Zynga, the purveyor of extremely popular game apps for Facebook such as Mafia Wars and Farmville. Like Zynga, the new HuffPost for Facebook app was custom-built specifically for use with Facebook. The goal was create a social media evolution for news, just as Zynga did for online gaming: an interactive way to draw your friends to interesting articles you’re reading, and see what news items they’re checking out. Using information about which articles are shared and “liked” by each user, the app “learns” what articles will be of interest. The app also includes local news from AOL’s Patch network by determining the location of the user’s mobile device.
Potentially a wise strategic move on the part of Huffington Post, the app is intended to harness the ever-increasing power of social media to expand readership, market and influence by getting readers to do it themselves, organically. But how many Huffington Post readers are likely to share their political and social views on a public forum like Facebook?
The potential problem of with the strategy is that its success depends on readers’ willingness to post what they’re reading and commenting on to their personal Facebook pages. Because of the political nature of much of Huffington Posts’ content, many users conceal their identities and comment anonymously. The older generational demographic of many Huffington Post readers means although they may be tech-savvy, they’re not necessarily subscribed to the full-disclosure personal sharing philosophy of Mark Zuckerberg’s Generation Y.
Initial reactions in comments posted by Huffington Post readers were negative, with many outcries of violation of privacy. Comments from readers not identified by their real names included:
“The last thing I want is for my [Facebook] friends to be bugged with every comment I make, whether on a newspaper article or on [a Huffington Post] blog. Even less do I want to read all of theirs.”
“I actually value control over who knows what about me/what I want to know/read.”
A commenter identified as R. W. Sanders said, “In my day, the sixties, it was easy to perceive the generation gap. We flaunted it in numerous ways. But today’s gap may be best defined by technology and our willingness to accept it into our lives. There is a definite Orwellian element. And though I may well adapt sometime in the future, for now I’ll ride off into the sunset on my dinosaur.”