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Developer Spotlight: The Guardian

March 2, 2012BySimon Cross

Today's developer spotlight is on The Guardian.

The Guardian built an app on Facebook to bring news, video and audio content to new and existing readers. The app gives each person a personalized experience by surfacing the stories their friends have been enjoying, as well as what’s most popular at any given time.

The Guardian's goals are to reach a new audience on Facebook, increase engagement on their site and ultimately grow their base of readers through Open Graph.

What The Guardian Did Well
The app publishes actions across a range of content: news articles, videos, and even podcasts. They carefully modeled their data by linking each article to the authors who wrote it, adding object properties for the article's section, subject tags and correctly specifying the publish date, allowing the team to generate more meaningful aggregations.

They also created lightweight actions 'agree' and 'disagree' for Opinion articles to enable people to share their sentiment on issues. The feature generates authentic debates and discussions amongst friends, resulting in more traffic to these articles.

The Guardian focused most of their design effort on article pages (where the vast majority of app traffic lands), rather than on the app homepage. Article pages were designed to give social context about the friends who've read the article using the Facepile plugin, and help people find more Guardian content their friends had read through the Activity Feed plugin.

Finally, the Guardian drives adoption of their app by giving people the opportunity to install the app when clicking on a Guardian link in the news feed.

Implementation Profile

Actions - Objects
  • Read - Article: "Simon Cross read an article"
  • Watch - Video: "Karla Geci watched a video"
  • Play - Podcast: "Elke Karskens played a podcast"
  • Agree - Article: "Christian Hernandez agreed with an article"
  • Disagree - Article: "Bryant Lee disagreed with an article"
  • Top Authors
  • Top Videos
  • Articles Read
  • Podcasts Played
  • Articles agreed with
  • Articles disagreed with
In addition to the default built-in aggregations for read and watch, the Guardian also created a Top Authors aggregation - which highlights a person's most read Guardian journalists - by adding the Author URL property to their article objects.

Since launching with Open Graph, the Guardian's app has grown to over 3.9 million monthly active users, over half of which are under the age of 25 (a traditionally hard to reach audience for the Guardian). The team accomplished this by ensuring that every aspect of the experience was socially designed - from finding an article, to increasing engagement with social plugins, to driving re-engagement with innovative actions like "agree" and "disagree" through Open Graph.