What do we think of paper.li?

The occasion for this post is a tweet from board game developer Brett Gilbert (@55cards). Brett noticed that I used paper.li and asked me whether I found it worthwhile.

Paper.li is a curation tool. It allows users to create news sheets by republishing content harvested from a range of specified sources. For example, I publish a news-sheet entitled Cloud Publishing Weekly. The feeds come from posts on Google= (those mentioning ‘cloud publishing’) and Twitter (for example, tweets mentioning ‘bookstreaming’). News-sheets can be published daily, twice-daily, or weekly.

Readers can discover news sheets via paper.li’s newsstand and subscribe to selected news sheets. 

As a reader I have subscribed to various sheets from time to time, principally concerning publishing, creative writing, and cloud computing. News sheet publishers can announce their publications automatically via Twitter. I occasionally click on the links embedded in such announcements.  

So do I find it worthwhile?  News sheets are easy to set up and so anyone wishing to establish thought leadership (or simply thought also-running-ship) should consider the tool. After all, it is unobtrusive: nobody has to subscribe or click through to your news-sheet. And it is free of charge.

However, there are some disadvantages. Editions of news sheets are published automatically (though the time is set by the sheet’s publisher). Thus there is less than full editorial control. There is a risk of one’s news-sheet containing material one wouldn’t wish to be acquainted with – for example, political material.

Publishers can shape the content by prioritising or deleting stories. The problem is that – at least, so far as I can see – this can be done only once the edition has been published. 

The lack of editorial creates the risk of including irrelevant content. The risk can be reduced by gradually refining the selection of feeds – though that takes time.

There is also a risk of repetition (within an edition or between editions) because, for example, different feeds produce carry links to the same content. This risk is more difficult to manage.

Paper.li’s blog provides guidance on how to edit and manage news-sheets in order to refine them and maximise their impact. It looks useful, but somehow paper.li hasn’t yet captured my imagination sufficiently to make me invest the time required. I don’t think I’m alone – many of the news-sheets I’ve read feel rather unkempt.

I do discover useful content via paper.li – not least by clicking through to the content from the links in my own news-sheets. Overall, however, my assessment of paper.li is based more on what it isn’t (i.e., difficult to start or costly to use) than what it is. I do find the name ‘paper.li’ somewhat annoying.

I’d certainly be interested to hear from users who are making better use of the service. 


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