Goodreads is an app for those who are both bookish and web-friendly, and in a recent call with VentureBeat, founder Otis Chandler told us Facebook’s new Timeline-focused actions are just about the best thing that’s ever happened to the company.
Since Facebook opened up new kinds of Timeline activity for Facebook-connected apps, those apps have seen huge growth. Traffic and new account signups are growing by leaps and bounds for popular apps like Pinterest, Fab, Pose, and more.
For Goodreads, too, the growth curve has been significant: nearly 6.5 million actions published to Facebook since the app’s Timeline launch, in fact.
“We hoped for it, but we didn’t know it would be to this extent,” said Chandler of the app’s phenomenal growth over the past two months. “A year ago, we had three-something million users, and today, we have seven million. Last year, we doubled headcount and revenue and books added.”
For many of us, books are a big part of how we identify ourselves to our friends. With a few well-chosen titles, you can paint yourself as an intellectual, an iconoclast, an aesthete, a gourmand — just about anything. Books are one of the more obvious sociological symbols we have, and Goodreads allows you to splash those symbols all over your Facebook Timeline, now more easily and expressively than ever before.
“We launched on Facebook Platform in 2007, when the platform itself launched,” said Chandler, underscoring the importance of Goodreads’ connection to the social network. “It’s been a high priority to have Facebook integration because people really do like sharing what they’re reading with their friends. It’s something that generates conversation.”
Chandler isn’t calling his users pretentious or egotistical because they like showing off their virtual bookshelves. Rather, he said, “They’re proud that they’ve read their books and it says something about them. It’s a little bit of ego maybe, but it’s a lot more about self-expression.”
It’s all about structured data
Actions, which are Facebook’s new, more structured way to let apps publish data to your Timeline, just launched last month, but already they have become a significant stepping stone for media and lifestyle apps.
“These apps have a few things in common,” wrote a Facebook spokesperson in a statement to VentureBeat. “They’re built around something people care about and identify with, they enable people to share things they want their friends to see, and they provide easy ways to control the social experience.”
Chandler said that, much more than the old-school “boxes” or wall tabs that Facebook used to have, Timeline and Actions allow for more perfect and accurate forms of self-expression.
“The exciting thing is, the more structure we can tell Facebook, the more interesting patterns that they can pull out and highlight,” he said, echoing the sentiment we’ve heard from many developers: more structured data is a very, very good thing.
Facebook uses that structured data to create summaries of app activity — tidy little aggregations of, for example, the books you started and finished within a given period of time. “The clickthroughs on those aggregations are a lot higher, because I think it’s more interesting to the users,” Chandler said.
But it’s not just about quantity; Chandler said Facebook is also looking at how book objects are linked to other objects, such as authors. “If you’ve used Goodreads for a while, you can go back and see in 2011, you read four books by this author and three by that author. And it’s all because we’ve told Facebook about that structure,” he said.
At a recent developer conference, Facebook exec Carl Sjogreen hammered on the importance of structured data to Timeline-friendly apps. “By simply taking the actions you do in that app and adding them to Facebook … that lights up the Facebook experience,” he said.
Sjogreen went on to say that by giving Facebook “a more structured representation of the core activity within the application … we can turn Ticker and Timeline on (and whatever we come up with next) without a lot of extra effort.”
Chandler concluded that Goodreads’ upward trajectory will continue, even as Facebook adds more capabilities via Actions and Open Graph.
“I’ve read studies that of Americans who read, around 10 percent read avidly, and another 10 percent read regularly,” said Chandler. “So if 20 percent of Americans read fairly often, and there’s 310 million Americans, that puts our market at 62 million people… Given that Facebook has most of the world population on it now, there’s a huge potential for us to grow.”
Image courtesy of Peter Kim, Shutterstock