Create a custom newspaper with Paper.li and show gratitude at the same time!
One day, something intrigued me when I checked my Twitter account. There was a mention of me saying I had contributed to something called Paper.li. I didn’t understand what Paper.li was, but I later found out they’re a relatively new platform for online publishing and curation. Paper.li now has 3.5 million unique monthly visitors who create and read over 700,000 “newspapers” in seven languages. In a nutshell, if you put interesting content online in a blog, a tweet, etc., any Paper.li user can easily repackage the info to create a tidy, shareable mini-newspaper. If it sounds fun and fast, it is! On Paper.li’s “newsstand,” you’ll see niche papers on anything from neuroscience, 1960’s nostalgia, microbrews, and more general ones too. Anything you see is put together by real people for real people who will subscribe to you if they like your site.
I’ll call the sites simply Papers, to make things easier. If your tweet is used, you’ll get thanked publicly and automatically by each Paper.li user when his or her Paper is published. In addition to Twitter, users can add information from YouTube, GooglePlus, Facebook, RSS, etc. as sources for content. Because of Twitter’s hashtags, keywords, and lists, it remains the most popular way Paper.li users curate content.
Trying my hand at my own weekly Paper
I set out to find out more about Paper.li, including the people who run it, and what inspired them. SmallRivers is the formal name of the company that created the platform. Founders and friends Edouard Lambelet and Iskander Pols had a common interest – connecting people to interests via content. They experimented with a few apps, then launched Paper.li in alpha mode in April 2010. It started out as a simple Twitter timeline reader – an easy way to freeze your timeline for a 24-hour period so that you could make sense of the content. Lambelet and Pols soon realized Paper.li could be used as a utilitarian tool to help marketers monitor sources and build community.
Users are given the option to set their Paper to create fresh editions twice daily, once daily or weekly. When a new Paper is created, the previous one is placed in your archives. I decided to try my hand at creating my own weekly Paper with an interior decor focus. I named it Colorful Creative, and every Saturday, Paper.li pulls in content from my 25 chosen sources for me to review. I was surprised at how fast this was done. It was cool to have new, interesting content presented to me and to pick and choose what goes where. You can bump any article you like by using a simple “up arrow” button – it then becomes your top featured story for that edition. Logging in is easy because you can just use your Twitter or Facebook login.
SmallRivers will soon roll out bonus enhancements for Paper.li users. Some will be for cross-promotion to your Linkedin and Facebook accounts, and can be customized. You can access official online support communities to find out more or give feedback. In fact, Paper.li wants you to interact with other users and listen to your opinions. As all companies should, SmallRivers is figuring out where and how to get better, and in a transparent breath of fresh air, they’re using social media as a pivotal factor for R&D. Paper.li is on track to deliver a new “Editor’s Choice” feature, which will allow sticky content on every edition. Integration with GooglePlus is actively being discussed. Private “stealth” papers for industry or trend tracking will be available for pro users very soon. These are for your eyes only – and those of your collaboration team. Just recently, SmallRivers received a fresh round of funding to the tune of $2 million. The founders announced it will allow even more innovation, and at a faster pace.
An offbeat social media tip: Mention your mentions!
While we’re on the topic of social media platforms, let me switch gears for a minute and share a tip based on my own SM experience. You’ve likely read half a million SM tips in 2013 alone, but this one’s a little offbeat, so it could be a new one for you. I feel whether we’re talking about Paper.li or other services, it can be helpful to keep a manual log of who, when, and how you’ve helped. This is something to consider if record-keeping or self-promotion (or both) are important to you. When meeting new people online for the first time, your log can act as a quick summary about you, giving people a better sense of your interests, personality, any groups you might belong to, etc.
To begin logging your Paper.li ‘thank you’ mentions, start with Twitter’s search bar. Type “Paper.li” and your Twitter handle (with or without the “@” sign). Next, take a screenshot of the search result and insert it into a blank page on Google Docs. Rename the Google document and change its shareability settings (the options are Can view, Can comment, Can edit). See, as a social media newbie back in 2012, I didn’t do any of this. Fortunately, there was no negative impact because I don’t really belong to any one niche. If your good reputation precedes you, wonderful! You don’t need a log. But if you’re trying to “make an entrance” into a niche community, and your track record is noteworthy, that’s good enough reason to share a log of this kind. Make it look nice and let it showcase your personality. Who says logs have to be boring? We’re living in a creative era, so let’s get creative! A log like this isn’t appropriate on your website, but I strongly feel it behooves you to have one in your personal cloud in case you need a concise, shareable summary to help people quickly learn more about you.
My main dossier is on Evernote as a basic note, but I can also use entire Evernote folders or vCard templates. The bottom line is a person needs to feel comfortable with his or her tools, regardless of what other people say. For short summaries, right now my tools of choice are Evernote and Google Docs. For logging who you’ve helped on Paper.li, it’s best to update your dossier regularly because your tweets republished on Paper.li Papers can be tricky to find if they’re old. On any recent Paper, a contributing tweet (or retweet) is easy to trace and associate, but that’s not true for older content in older newsletters. What I’ve found is that clicking an old Paper.li short URL won’t let you see your old tweet to see how it fits in an existing Paper. Instead, you’re taken to a user’s front page, hence my suggestion to log and log early.
Take a look at this image, from one of my dossiers. Since many of the ‘thank you’ tweets were sent in 2012, I can only remember 2 out of 6 instances where Paper.li users said I helped. I could make guesses based on the user, but I’d still need to go through all my tweets because Papers are refreshed and not stored. I can try pasting info into Topsy or Twitter’s advanced search just to see what comes up, or I can just tell myself I helped other people, though I can’t remember exactly how. (If you’re in my circle of friends and reading this, you’re probably laughing at that old personality trait of mine – the one where I never remember the “great advice” I supposedly give out. Just my nature, I suppose.)
Brand yourself: Paper.li users and real-life success
As for my personal experience with Paper.li, it just so happens that my weekly Paper is a “fun” one, but a number of users say the site has helped them meet the right people and open professional doors. Although I’m a new user, I feel Paper.li is a tool anybody can use in branding yourself, all by simply pushing buttons and saying, “Yes, I want to include this; No, I don’t want to include that.” At first, I felt almost guilty, for lack of a better word, because Paper.li is easy and time-efficient, but now I feel if something can easily help you with a goal, embrace it! You know those stories of people who combined social media with bold creativity to get jobs?
One savvy individual, JD Beebe, decided to use Paper.li to create a niche Paper and named it Ad Agency Thought Sauce. Agencies took notice within the first few weeks of AATS going live, and Mr. Beebe received replies from 5 different agencies. He is now a Senior Copywriter at Noise in New York. There’s beauty in creativity, whether you’re creating for fun, professional development, or anything in between. Paper.li is conducive to creativity and worth a try because it’s easy and free.
Does creating your own newspaper sound useful or fun to you? How can you put Paper.li to work for you?
Image: news paper