Let a Thousand Personalized Newspapers Bloom


I wrote recently about Paper.li, a service from a Swiss company called Small Rivers, which pulls in your Twitter stream and extracts any links shared by those you follow, then displays those links in a newspaper-style format. (The company was recently funded by Kima Ventures, whose co-founder bought the French newspaper Le Monde.) More and more Twitter users I follow seem to be making use of the service to construct their own personalized newspapers. Here are a few of the ones I have come across (if you’re interested, my Paper.li is here):

You can easily create Paper.li newspapers around Twitter lists, such as Robert Scoble’s list of influential technology types (full disclosure: I am on this list) and Spigit VP Hutch Carpenter’s Innovation list. You can create Twitter-stream newspapers from specific hashtags as well, such as #climate or #autism. There are also a few celebrities using Paper.li to create papers from their streams, including British actor and author Stephen Fry, comedian Eddie Izzard and former pop superstar Boy George.

The service — which is still in alpha, but says it plans to launch a beta soon — is much like the “Daily Me” concept (a term coined by MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte) that many services have tried to deliver. Many of these services try to learn from articles you say you like, in the same way that music services such as Pandora try to learn from your behavior. (There’s another Twitter-based service called Twitter Times that takes a newspaper-style approach.) What’s interesting about using Twitter for such a service is that you don’t have to explicitly say which articles you like, or wait for the software to learn what you’re interested in; you choose the people you follow and those people choose the links they want to share, and that constitutes your newspaper.

In many ways, this is a natural extension of the idea that if the news is important “it will find me.” In other words, if something is important or interesting, it will eventually make its way to you through your social network, by being shared on Twitter or Facebook or some other service. This is an almost complete inversion of the way media traditionally works, where editors decide what is important, then publish it for readers. In that sense, it’s “demand” media rather than “supply” media, or pull rather than push.

Paper.li adds value to Twitter in such an obvious way that it’s surprising Twitter didn’t think of it (although it could always try to acquire the company). It will be interesting to see whether the Swiss service — or any other similar offering — decides to branch out from Twitter and incorporate content that comes from Facebook “likes” and other implementations of the Facebook open graph protocol. There are currently several sites that aggregate that kind of thing, including LikeButton.me and It’s Trending.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): What We Can Learn From the Guardian’s Open Platform

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user George Kelly


Christian Pooch

I just found this article and must assert that the newest Syntops project: http://www.individuelle-zeitung.de has not been mentioned. This has been made up now. :)

Besides I am glad to announce that from today our service of an individual newspaper is completed by the new iPad-App PersonalNews available on iTunes.

[By the way: I am directly connected to Syntops GmbH]

Dan Olsen

Great post. We are at an interesting time when personalized news apps are exploding, especially on the iPad.

Social-based is one approach to personalized news; topic-based is another approach.
I invite you to check out YourVersion http://yourversion.com where we’re building “Pandora for your real-time web content”.
In addition the website, we have a free iPad app at http://bit.ly/yv-hd and a free iPhone app at http://bit.ly/yv-app (Android app coming soon).
YourVersion brings you the latest news, blogs, tweets, and videos tailored to your specific interests.

I’d love to hear any feedback you have on the product. Cheers,



I find this service very interesting. Not only for papers created by lists or single users but also for tags to see what’s on people’s mind for certain topics. Some tags work better than others but I assume better filtering will take care of it in the near future. I assign specific domain names to those newspapers for an easy find and compile them all under http://www.twitsnation.com. Do I have more papers than Rupert Murdoch by now but without a paywall or loosing money? :)

Deanna Zandt

Are there no interesting women or people of color in your ecosystem, or using paper.li, or on social media at all, or… … …

Mathew Ingram

I have lots of interesting women in my social-media ecosystem, Deanna, and several “people of color,” but to my knowledge none of them are using Paper.li. Thanks for the comment.


I agree that there is value in displaying links in a newspaper style format. It is quite interesting reading that instead of hopping over to links from your twitter stream.

From experiences, in launching the site htt://www.Paper.io, I have found there are two distinct demands from audiences who read custom aggregators.

The first kind wants to display what they are reading or interested in which is met by a service like Paper.li and then there is the second kind where they want to know what others think are the best content.

This kind of crowdsourcing approach to finding the best content online ( is what we use at http://www.paper.io) by getting reader’s actually voting for the best sources. This has some immediate benefit – less information overload by filtering the best content and also saving time by getting topic specific content on one page.

Vin Crosbie


You might also look at Niiu, the daily newspaper in Berlin that delivers individuated (i.e., mass-customized) printed editions (http://niiu.de http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niiu ). Or the daily news newsletter project that the Swiss Post (the Swiss postal service) and the German firm Syntops began this month (http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/fulton/200901/1628/). The Europeans are ahead of the North Americans in bringing ‘personalized’ news to people on a mass scale.

Indeed, there are no technological reasons why printed daily newspapers anyway today can’t switch to printing individuated editions. Digital presses, which basically are giant inkjet printers fed by newsprint rolls (see http://tinyurl.com/35ald6s for an example), are beginning to replace analog presses at newspapers. Compared to analog presses, the digital ones print finer and better color, cost about 40% to purchase, and 35% to man, although the ink costs are still higher than with analog presses. Digital presses are currently economical only for dailies with less than about 20,000 circulation, but the breakeven circ. level has been doubling every two years.

The allegedly ‘missing’ successful business models for newspapers online — as well as in print or iPad/e-reader/e-paper editions during this century — is to deliver to each person those stories that are specifically relevant or interesting to that individual, from any source or from just those sources that the person specifically requests.

In an era when people have surplus access and choices to media, the scarcity era business model of distributing the same selection of stories that an editor chooses for everyone no longer makes sense. The very reason why people use search engines is to individuate well beyond what Mass Media gives them.

The fourth annual Individuated News Conference was held in July this summer, and the fifth will be held October 2011 in Washington, D.C. http://www.individuatednews.com

[By the way, I have no business or other connections with any of the companies I’ve mentioned.]

Mathew Ingram

Thanks a lot, Vin — those are some great links. I will definitely check them out. It will be interesting to see whether any newspapers try the individualized approach you describe.

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