The Washington Post’s Social Reader app on Facebook is losing members in droves, a fate that seems to have befallen other “frictionless” apps that share pretty much whatever you’re doing on the Internet, whether you like it or not.
Forbes first reported the drop for the Post’s Social Reader app, and AppData.com confirmed it, finding that the Social Reader has fallen from 17.4 million monthly active users to 9.2 million users in the past month.
According to AppData.com, the top apps that have lost users includes many social reader apps, such as The Guardian. The Guardian’s drop-off looks similar to Post’s; it has gone from about 600,000 daily active users to under 100,000 in less than one month.
Social reader apps are basically the digital equivalent of inviting people to read over your shoulder. The Washington Post Social Reader, for example, automatically shares whatever you read on their website with your Facebook friends. The automatic sharing feature is supposed to make sharing “frictionless,” but it actually creates more friction as you frantically try to get rid of any evidence that you clicked on something you didn’t want to share.
As if the automatic sharing feature weren’t bad enough, when your friends try to click on the links to the stories you read, they’re directed to install the Washington Post’s Social Reader app — effectively giving it permission to share everything they’re reading. This creates a giant circle of awkward oversharing that people have little control over (unless you do what I do, which is lookup the article outside of Facebook and never, ever let the Washington Post have my information).
The Washington Post’s engagement officer, Ryan Y. Kellett, tweeted the following explanation for why the social reader is doing so badly:
According to Buzzfeed, this means we can conclude that “social readers are appearing less prominently in users’ timelines, in part due to the site’s new ‘Trending Articles’ feature, which promotes (and effectively minimizes) social reader stories in one place. So it’s not entirely a matter of fatigue.”
That’s probably a good explanation for the sudden drop-off of active users. But, like everyone else on the Internet, I am of the opinion that social readers had it coming to them.