Dell sponsors first social news app on Facebook

Nowadays, as newspapers struggle to remain relevant to readers, The Wall Street Journal has developed an app that reimagines newspaper reading as an inherently social experience. And what better channel to test that theory than Facebook?

The WSJ Social app, which launched Tuesday, allows Facebook users to choose which news streams they want to follow and which stories appear on their screens. Instead of just reading content curated by Journal editors (as you would if you were reading the actual newspaper or visiting, you can read stories recommended and shared by other users. And leaderboard keeps track of the users who are the most influential.

In addition to giving users more control over the content they see, the app (sponsored by Dell for the first month) breaks ground when it comes to finding new revenue streams for newspapers.

For the first time, instead of trying to drive traffic to the Journal’s website, the newspaper’s selling ads within the app, and it then gets to keep that revenue.

Stories behind the Journal’s paywall remain subscriber-only, but Dell’s making that content free during its sponsorship period. After that, the Journal will be the first newspaper attempting to distribute paywall-guarded content though a social network.

And though The Wall Street Journal was the first newspaper to begin experimenting with social media curation, it clearly won’t be the last.

At the F8 Developers Conference 2011 this week, The Washington Post unveiled a Facebook app of its own. The Social Reader app works a lot like the Journal’s app except that it can tailor the stories you see by using algorithms that sift through what you’ve already read and the information that’s in your Facebook profile.

By giving social media users a say in what they read, newspapers show readers that they see the value in interaction. It could be the change that saves them.

About the Author: Ana Cantu