The idea: take selected tweets, gather them all on a single web page, then share them with your followers in a familiar newspaper-style format. Paper.li is an app designed to do just that.
Lots of people are using it. If you’re on Twitter and haven’t yet received one of these daily newspapers, you probably will soon. But is Paper.li a new and helpful tool that you, too, could use? Or is it just another waste of Twitter time?
Let’s take a closer look.
What Is It?
Paper.li “newspapers” are generated from lists of people on Twitter or a Twitter hashtag.
The Paper.li engine pulls the tweets of all the people on the list you specified into a web page that looks something like a newspaper layout. The software automatically sorts content into sections, such as technology or health, much the same way a print newspaper has sections. If a tweet has a link to a website or a video, that linked content is pulled right into the newspaper.
Once your Paper.li newspaper is created, you can choose to tweet about it to your followers. Here’s where things get tricky.
More and more people are using Paper.li and are tweeting their followers every 24 hours about the latest edition. It’s an auto-generated tweet and it’s the same every day. If you’re following a person who’s publishing a Paper.li newspaper, you’ll get this tweet whether you’re interested in his paper or not. As a result, some people are complaining that Paper.li is spammy.
Another complaint I’ve seen about Paper.li: It imitates an archaic form of communication that’s slowly dying. In other words, why make your tweets (new media) look like a newspaper (old media)?
When Could It Be Useful?
I see a few different reasons why a Paper.li edition might make sense:
- Your audience isn’t on Twitter but you know there’s information circulating there that could be valuable to them. You cull the best tweets and present them with a daily web-based digest.
- Your audience is on Twitter but finds it overwhelming. They don’t visit frequently and when they do, they can’t find what they want. Again, you cull the best tweets and present them with Paper.li, a daily web-based digest.
- Your audience enjoys reading a newspaper. They appreciate Paper.li’s format and find it easy and intuitive to navigate.
- Your audience is strapped for time and would appreciate a curated selection of content on your topic, rather than scrolling through a long tweet stream.
- You audience is on Twitter but doesn’t follow all the people within your newspaper, nor do they want to start following them. They read your paper periodically to catch up on content they normally wouldn’t see.
I’m sure there are more. (Leave a comment if you have another.)
Lesson #1: Paper.li isn’t for every audience, but could be phenomenal for some.
Don’t publish a Paper.li newspaper just because you can. First, make sure it fits and could offer value to the people you want to communicate with.
I decided to experiment by creating my own daily Twitter newspaper.
I based my first paper on a list of people in the Highspot book trade directory. What I hoped to get was a gathering of relevant and valuable publishing industry content. What I got instead was a newspaper that had hardly anything to do with publishing, and a lot to do with politics, food, and television shows.
I tried again with a different list out of the directory. This time I got a lot more book-focused content.
Lesson #2: Build your newspaper carefully.
Presumably, you’re publishing a Paper.li newspaper around a specific topic or theme. It might be self-publishing or women in finance or pitbulls. If people are going to find value in your paper, the content needs to be tightly focused on your theme, and that means you need to be building your paper around people who you know tweet consistently on your theme.
If I was going to use Paper.li as a tool to communicate with my followers, I’d start by custom-building a Twitter list whose sole purpose was to form the basis of my newspaper.
The Bottom Line
If used thoughtfully, Paper.li has the potential to be helpful to certain audiences. First, decide if the people you want to speak to would appreciate a Twitter summary. (You might even use Paper.li to bring Twitter content to a whole new audience segment.) If the answer is yes, curate the content carefully so it’s focused and helpful.
Do you publish or read a Paper.li newspaper? What’s your take?