On Thursday the Guardian announced it would kill its Facebook Social Reader application, which debuted last September.
Like the Washington Post‘s reader, the Guardian social reader debuted to much fanfare, hitting around 12 million total signups and 6 million monthly active users at its peak.
Lately? The chart below from AppData tells the story: The app had fallen to approximately 2.5 million monthly active users.
So what happened? In part, the dropoff was a result of Facebook tweaking its feed algorithm, but the bigger reason was the sheer annoyance many readers felt when using the apps. Facebook social reading apps always seemed like a bait and switch: A simple click on a tantalizing headline required using an app, and then further insult to injury was added when a reader’s activity surfaced in their friends’ feeds.
We have our guilty-pleasure reads about reality-TV personalities and pop stars; we just don’t want pe0ple to know about them.
The bottom line for social news readers? Both consumers and publishers want greater control and less noise. Consumers want to choose what articles they share. Publishers (like the Guardian) want control over their own destiny. The initial traffic from the social readers was nice, but they never controlled the reader, Facebook did, and this is something the Guardian felt it had to change, especially since its social reader traffic had dropped off so substantially.