Facebook reportedly prepping Flipboard-like Reader to push mobile use

Facebook's rumoured news aggregator service is reportedly taking a glossy page from Flipboard's magazine-like playbook.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook's Reader product resembles the smartphone and tablet app, which lets users swipe through articles like skimming the pages of a magazine.

The secretive project, which the Journal said has been in the works for more than a year, is aimed at promoting mobile use, with the hopes of steering more eyeballs toward advertisements too.

A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment on the rumours.

Facebook's social-network identity continues to evolve, most recently with the addition of linkable hashtags, which can point consumers in the direction of related news and public conversations.

Meanwhile, the company earlier this year launched its redesigned news feed, providing a more consistent experience across the web and mobile platforms, and working toward becoming "the best personalised newspaper we can," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in March.

The Facebook Reader experiment seems to be intent on driving more users toward its mobile applications, which are often used more briefly than the popular web version, Journal said. In fact, a more immersive smartphone or tablet experience for users could mean more ad revenue for Facebook, which earned about $470 million (£304 million) in global mobile Internet ad revenues last year, according to a recent eMarketer report.

This move comes almost three months after Facebook unveiled Home, an Android "experience" that boasts features like a feed-filled home screen and Chat Heads messaging, and focuses exclusively on the mobile platform.

Rumours about Facebook's possible Google Reader replacement began swirling earlier this month, when developer Tom Waddington reported mentions of RSS feeds in Facebook's code, each showing multiple entries and a list of subscribers. The social network would not confirm the reports, and Waddington's attempt to access the feeds through Facebook's API left him locked out.

With the shutdown of Google Reader scheduled for next Monday, several services have started pushing their own RSS system, including Digg, which is expected to begin rolling out its new reader this week, and AOL, which recently launched an RSS reader in beta.

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