How to make paper.li worthwhile

Posted on February 21, 2011

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I’ve been asked to provide my professional opinion about the benefits (if any) of paper.li. As always, I’m happy to oblige.

If you aren’t familiar with paper.li, it’s basically an online paper generator that you can sign up for through either your Twitter or Facebook account. The idea is that it’s a way for you or the subscribers to your online paper to read what’s being talked about on the social networks. (The Facebook feature says it’s still in test mode, so I’ll stick to Twitter in this post.)

I had been wanting to try out paper.li because I’m a journalist at heart. However, because my tweets were protected for some time, I couldn’t use it. Rule #1: Paper.li can only be used on open and unlocked Twitter accounts.

Setting up a basic paper.li paper

After unprotecting my account, setting up my paper on paper.li was very simple.

1. Log into Twitter and then go to paper.li in a new window. Click the “Sign In” button on the top right. Because you are logged into your Twitter account, paper.li will automatically recognize your Twitter handle and ask you to confirm.

2. Click on Create a Newspaper and fill in your Twitter handle in the first box. Click on create and wait for your paper to be published.

3. In settings, you can change the title of your paper, set the time for which it will generate the daily updates and choose whether you want Twitter to automatically tweet your paper when it’s updated.

The issues

I’m sure you’ve seen the tweets: “The [insert name here] Daily is out > Top stories via @user, @user and @user.”

After a week of watching this pop up on my timeline, I disabled the automatic tweet in settings. I saw a few problems:

1. Everyone who has a paper.li paper has the same tweet day after day after day. Admit it. You’re getting tired of seeing it. The automatic paper.li tweet offers no information about what’s in the paper; it only lists a random few people who unknowingly contributed to it.

2. If most Twitter users are like me, I never click on someone’s paper unless I’m listed as one of the top story providers. Even when that happens, it’s not usually something that I thought was cool. It was for some random thought I had about the cookies I baked yesterday or something.

3. That brings me to this issue: The basic setup for paper.li is completely random. It scrolls through your timeline and that of your followers and comes up with a chaotic paper on 45 different topics.

Making it worthwhile

There are a couple of other options when you create a paper.li paper. You can create a paper based on hashtags on Twitter or you can create a paper based only off a particular list you have on Twitter. If you look to the right in the “create a newspaper” window, there’s also a create a custom paper for Twitter button. This last option is the one I used.

If my goal is to make my paper worthwhile, I want to have a general focus for my paper. Because I write a lot about social media on this blog DailyNewsTwist and am starting a column as Social Media Gal for CityGal Magazine, I decided my general focus should be social media. Easy enough, right?

However, if I used the hashtag option, I’d have to enter all sorts of tags to get everything I wanted (#socialmedia, #SM, #Twitter, #Facebook, #Foursquare, etc.). Also, not everyone tweets in hashtags all the time so there were going to be items that would be missed.

Likewise, if I used the list option, the people I put in that list wouldn’t always be tweeting about social media so I would again end up with a chaotic, random paper.

In “create a custom paper,” I renamed my paper “Shelby’s #SM News,” changed my language to English and put “social media SM” as the paper’s focus. The only problem I found is that the paper’s “contributors” in this option has to be either all Twitter users or specified to a list. Since I didn’t want to limit contributions to one list, I selected all Twitter users. I do wish the options for contributors included those following me or those I am following.

The result

When I pushed the “publish paper” button with these parameters, it did take much longer to create the first time. It was, after all, going through millions of Twitter users to find specific content. However, I reminded myself that it will automatically update for me after this first creation.

My published paper was much better and much less random. I did find a couple of articles that I wanted to read so maybe there is a benefit to having all Twitter users contributing. However, today’s edition did have one duplicate article by two contributors on the front page. I’ll have to monitor that issue over the next couple of weeks.

In settings, I made sure the paper updated daily and the automatic Twitter updates were turned off. This way, I can look at my paper when I want to and using the “tweet” button on the top right of my front page, I can tweet what I want and when I want to share it.

When I press that “tweet” button, the standard paper.li tweet pops up in a separate window. That’s great because I move it off to the side and rework the tweet to add some info. A test tweet I sent out earlier today (now deleted) listed two articles’ headlines along with users’ handles who contributed those articles. This way my tweet includes information that you’ll find on my paper; not just who was responsible for the articles on it.

Yes, making my paper worthwhile will take more effort on my part; but taking the “daily” off my paper’s name makes it so I can tweet about it when I feel like there’s something worthwhile there. Even if no one else finds my paper worthwhile, I’ll be checking it every day for ideas that I can blog about here and elsewhere.

I hope you found this post worthwhile. If there are other topics you’d like to hear about, please let me know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in: A New Twist