A recent Brain Traffic Twitter exchange with @dmnguys introduced me to the world of Paper.li. Since then, I’ve been trying to figure out whether I like the service or not. One thing’s for sure: it’s no substitute for curation.
WHAT IS PAPER.LI?
According to their website, Paper.li is an online service that “organizes links shared on Twitter into an easy to read newspaper-style format.” You can create these “newspapers” to aggregate content for Twitter users, lists, or hashtags. Paper.li automatically generates these feeds into a homepage that emulates the feel of a traditional newspaper’s website.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT PAPER.LI
As Mathew Ingram writes on Gigaom.com, Paper.li is “a great way to catch up on interesting links my network has found — especially if I have been away from Twitter during the day and am wondering what I have missed.”
I’ve only been using Paper.li for a couple short days, but I can already agree that this is the main benefit of a service like this. Other things I like about Paper.li:
- View by topic—If you want to see things only related to Technology, you can do that without paging through your full Twitter feed.
- View by media—Gives you a snapshot view of videos and photos, without clicking a link first.
- Create multiple newspapers—You can create up to 10 “newspapers” to follow the people, hashtags, and lists you’re most interested in.
- No follow required—You can follow any Twitter list on Paper.li without actually following it from your Twitter account.
WHAT I DON'T LIKE ABOUT PAPER.LI
This list is meatier than the “What I like” list. Sorry, Paper.li.
Daily Tweets, without context—If you want to share your Paper.li site on your personal Twitter stream, you can click the “Promote It” link below the masthead. This requires you to sign up for daily promotional Tweets, and won’t let you do a one-time promotion of your page. Sure, you can go in and “manage” the papers you are promoting to turn off the daily Tweets—but that’s a bit laborious.
Additionally, Paper.li Daily Tweets provide absolutely no context for the content that appears on your Paper.li page. This absence of context is exactly what drew me to Paper.li in the first place.
The fact that the Paper.li daily gets “no input from us” doesn’t bother @dmnguys. Automatic generation of a Tweet absolves them from providing context. But as a user and an indirect subject of their Twitter stream, the Paper.li Daily Tweet ended up confusing instead of enlightening me.
Without the proper context around the “featured” Twitter handles and why they are being featured, the Daily Tweet doesn’t provide any value to followers. At least, not in my book.
Not all “stories” translate—Paper.li attempts to replicate the first paragraph of the links shared by your Twitter community. This lead-in doesn’t always translate well, so you end up reading a bunch of nonsense until you click the link. For instance, Kristina posted a link to some favorite articles the other day.
Her Tweet said:
Paper.li translated her Tweet as follows:
Um … WTF?
Not customizable—Because Paper.li automatically generates the sections of my daily “newspaper,” I have no say in what appears as my lead story. Also, I can’t hide or rearrange any of the topical sections.
No central dashboard—I created two Paper.li dailies, but am unable to access them without a direct URL. I expected Paper.li to keep a list of my previously created “newspapers” somewhere, especially after I’m logged in to the site. (In case you’re curious, the two papers I created are: Angie King Daily and contentstrategy Daily.)
PAPER.LI IS NOT CURATION
Granted, nobody said it WAS curation. But my experience with Paper.li just proves the importance of curation over aggregation. Without an editorial eye overseeing the publication of my Paper.li page, the content loses value. I actually prefer just paging through my Twitter stream over trying to make sense of the no-context, automatically generated list of junk that displays on my Paper.li page.
But I can’t blame Paper.li for trying to meet a need. It just wasn’t MY need. Probably because I’m not a robot.