Paper.li: A Clearer View
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?
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Shakirah, we recently started publishing an issue called News for Songwriters and Composers that's getting good feedback, but I don't just "set it and let it go," either. Because New England Multimedia content is regularly picked up by other publishers of Paper.li's (and I so appreciate it!), I've had occasion to read through those issues and see how a "set it and let it go" approach hurts the publisher. I'll write a blog post about our experience eventually, but in the meantime, if someone is going to publish a Paper.li.: 1) make sure to read through each issue as soon as it's published and delete any content that isn't of stellar quality. 2) Delete anything that's promotional in nature, unless it's a promotion your audience will be interested in (a songwriting competition, for example). 3) Check the Twitter feed of anyone whose published content is self-promotional, and block their content from being published if the gist of their feed is all self-promoting. 4) In short, make sure every single issue of your Paper.li is worth reading.
New England Multimedia So appreciate these tips for Paper.li users, Michelle. It's been over a year since I wrote this post, so I'm sure Paper.li's at least a bit easier to manage than it was (before, it really was just a "set it and let it go" thing). Looking forward to your post, too.
I appreciate the first person recount of your experience with Paper.Li. Thanks for sharing it. Like you, I am curious to hear how others have experienced using the product.
I will go ahead and add the link to my post that you just commented on in case your readers are interested in the debate going on over there. http://intensefence.com/uncategorized/paper-li-clever-curation-or-spammy-automation/
adamtoporek Thanks for adding this link--I think it makes the perfect update of sorts to the state of Paper.li--at least in the view of people who've experienced it.
Thanks for writing this.
Of course, my intent was not to dissuade you from having a Twitter newspaper. :)
I actually wrote the post because I was curious about them and figured that others might be curious as well.
Right now, I think the jury's still out on what they will turn out to be. However, if your followers are annoyed with them, you probably made the right decision.
Since inactivating it, I haven't heard any requests for it back. And this post hasn't generated any wails of "but I loved it," so I'm thinking I did, too :). I think your curiosity was a bit wiser than mine, Laura, and I'm glad for it.
I'm one of those people who don't see the benefit of Twitter newspapers. But at the same time, I have to caution you that just because I don't see the benefit doesn't mean there isn't one. How would you describe your experience using it? If you were happy with your experience with the service, keep using it. If you aren't, don't.
Wise advice, Princess. I think I'll check back later. Right now perhaps I should say there there isn't enough benefit to go around (among myself, my followers, and the people I included in the paper).
I don't use the Paper.li service, but I do get picked up by a number of them. I get some views from the exposure, but nothing earth shattering. I don't find them annoying. If I don't want to look at them, I simply don't click the link.
As far as getting views for myself and my friends, I've had some success with twitterfeed. I set up my own RSS, and those of my friends, through the app. It automatically updates every 30 to 60 minutes and tweets anything new on those feeds. I've gotten a lot of views and fair number of sales that way.
I don't think it's annoying. I don't always read it, but I always appreciate the mentions! :) To each her own, I guess. But I'd say if it's taking up a lot of your time and you're not seeing benefits, you're right to let it go.
As someone from a LinkedIn group said (and I agree) it's more of a "wait-and-see" medium right now. I jumped in too soon, and although I did enjoy shouting you and my other favorite writing tweeps out, I couldn't really see that its readership was spreading beyond you, me, and the post so to speak :). That was a big hint that it wasn't really having the effect any of us on the paper would like.
But don't worry, Angie--you keep the good stuff coming and I'll keep re-tweeting!