Background: About a month ago, I posted my excitement about Paper.li, one of the Twitter newspapers that are growing in popularity. I wrote about the ease of setup and the short-term benefit I could see from having launched it a few weeks ago.
What I loved about it and still do: I can be exclusive about who contributes what articles to it, so naturally I include only people I follow and respect, and whose information on writing and editing I trust. The appreciation I’ve received from them whenever their tweeted or re-tweeted articles are included feels good. However–and this became more telling as time went on–there was no comment at all from any other Twitter-er who may have encountered it. I treated it as free publicity for my Twitter friends and left it at that because there’s no way to include any promotional message about my services or permanent link to my blog, and my own articles are not always featured. Also, Google Analytics has shown roughly 0% of my visits come from my paper.
A growing foreboding.Then earlier this week I got a Twitter direct message from Laura Spencer (AKA @TXWriter), blogger for the Freelance Folderand among my favorite bloggers on the topic. She asked me for a quote summarizing what I think of the paper. I briefly stated that I felt it drew me closer to some of my Twitter companions who were fellow freelancers and writers. She is among the few people I include, so she’s familiar with its contents. But her contact made me uneasy because what I didn’t say was that I had only 2 subscribers. I had also awakened that same morning to a message from another person I include in the paper. She expressed frustration that the paper doesn’t always include her own articles, and often it pulls in articles by others that she tweets or re-tweets.
Foreboding borne out. Anyway, two approaches about the paper in one day–after having received no objective feedback on it before–had me rethinking the paper’s real purpose. Then two days ago Laura sent me the link to the article she’d posted on Twitter newspapers. She had quite intelligently polled the Twitter-ers around her about their reaction to these apps. They were unanimously negative, and the 22 comments as of today reflect pretty much the same sentiments. This was surprising to me because I tended to think my paper was simply little known, not actively reviled. But people said they were annoying and felt they cluttered the Twitter stream.
My own quote at the end looked telling, though. There was my benefit (being a friend to my favorite tweeps) and the benefit of those I included (getting the shout-outs and being re-tweeted), but there was no mention of any benefit to the Twitter public–simply because I couldn’t tell (hadn’t asked) whether they benefitted or not. So although the findings were a cold shower, they sank in with a familiarity that meant thy weren’t as surprising as I felt on the surface.
Your advice. I knew then that I needed to let my paper go, but I wanted to write this post first because I’d like to get your advice and recommendations. Annoying or not Twitter-wise, I value the current information from my Twitter companions and the organization and layout of the page. Do you know of any well-laid out and easily customizable app I can link to my website that collects fresh tweets or links on my favorite topics from particular people? Would it be an RSS round-up of some sort? Which do you recommend? And (now I ask you!) what do you think of Twitter papers?