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):
- Jeff Nolan (technology blogger and VC — @jeffnolan)
- Umair Haque (director of Harvard’s media lab — @umairh)
- Ross Mayfield (co-founder of Socialtext — @ross)
- Wired magazine (the Wired Daily account — @wired)
- Stowe Boyd (online consultant — @stoweboyd)
- Alex Howard (O’Reilly correspondent — @digiphile)
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