The Pros and Cons of Twitter Newspapers

Are Twitter newspapers effective for freelancers?

For the past few months, I’ve been seeing links to online “newspapers” pop up in the Twitter stream. In fact, we first discussed Twitter Newspapers on Freelance Folder in an Open Thread a few months ago. Since online social media newspapers seem to be becoming more popular, I decided to take a closer look at this trend.

In this post, I’ll explain what a social media newspaper is and examine the pros and cons of having a Twitter newspaper. I’ll also share the results of an informal Twitter poll that I conducted.

What Is a Twitter Newspaper?

If you’re not familiar with social media newspapers, it’s important to understand what they are. Simply put, a social media newspaper automatically summarizes the content of user-selected tweets (and Facebook content) based on user-defined criteria (such as a Twitter list or hash tag). Typically, the newspaper is then tweeted out into the user’s Twitter stream. In some cases, it may also be shared on the user’s website.

Technically, tools that create such newspapers are aggregators–meaning that they gather a specified type of information from designated sources. In this case, however, the aggregator has been specifically designed to work with social media. Those who aggregate content are often referred to as “curators.”

Creating a Social Media Newspaper

Here are several online tools that you can use to create a Twitter or Facebook newspaper:

  • Paper.li–This newspaper tool seems allows you to create custom newspapers from both Twitter and Facebook.
  • Twitter Tim.es–This newspaper tool allows you to extract information from either media sources and from Twitter lists.
  • PostPost–This newspaper tool is currently limited to Facebook only.

However, expect new tools to crop up in the coming months. I would also expect to see existing tools expand to include other social media platforms.

Social Media Newspaper Pros and Cons

There are some advantages and disadvantages to having a Twitter newspaper.

I’ll tackle the advantages first:

  1. An organizational tool–Most Twitter users have more than one interest, so their Twitter streams can be chaotic, to say the least. A Twitter newspaper can help a freelancer gather related material.
  2. A way to find new information/contacts–Different social media users have access to different tweets and contacts. Reading someone else’s Twitter newspaper on a topic that you are interested in can help you find new information or contacts.
  3. Another “touch”–If you do a good job of creating your social media newspaper and it adds value for those you share it with, it could be a positive addition to your online freelancing brand.
  4. Possible SEO benefits–Because some social media newspapers are archived there may be some SEO benefits for either the creator of the newspaper or for those whose information is included.
  5. No cost (and easy to set up)–Most social media newspapers are free for the user and they are relatively simple to set up. Once one is set up, the newspaper creation process is automatic.

Now, for the disadvantages:

  1. Can’t be monetized–As far as I can tell, there is no way for a social media user to place advertisements on his or her social media newspaper.
  2. Only as good as your criteria–The contents of your social media newspaper will only be as good as your criteria (and your followers). If your criteria is poorly chosen or you do not follow interesting Tweeters, your newsletter may not add value.
  3. Some find it annoying–The annoyance factor should not be totally discounted. In my informal poll (see below) a significant number of freelancers indicated that they were annoyed with those who promote their Twitter newspapers.
  4. May be ignored by others–If your social media newspaper doesn’t deliver value, you may find that others ignore it entirely–making the value of having it as part of your brand questionable.

What Freelancers Think About Twitter Newspapers

I reached out on Twitter to discover how some freelancers felt about Twitter newspapers. I also asked a few of my contacts who already have social media newspapers already to comment on the experience.

Although my little Twitter poll was very informal and not necessarily scientific, I was surprised to discover that many freelancers don’t know what a Twitter newspaper is. There was also a significant number of comments that described Twitter newspapers as being “annoying.” Surprisingly, I didn’t get any positive comments.

I then decided to go ahead and ask a few freelancers who are using Twitter newspapers what they thought about the experience. These comments were positive. Here are two different opinions:

  • Shakirah Dawud (@shakirah_dawud), who blogs at Deliberate Ink, shared her experience: ” I think the best thing about it is how it helps bind me by association to some of my most respected and informative tweeps on my topic.”
  • George Passwater (@GRPasswater) provided similar feedback: “The feedback I’ve received on my Twitter daily papers is always positive. Many tell me how the news in each paper has helped them in one way or another. For me, it’s a win-win situation. I get to connect with all kinds of great people who read the papers and they get great content they can use for their own use.”

Other Resources

Here are a few other resources discussing social media newspapers.

Your Turn

What do you think about Twitter newspapers? Do you use a Twitter (or other social media) newspaper? Can you think of any pros or cons that I forgot?

Share your experience or opinion in the comments.

Comments

  1. says

    Creating a twitter newspaper is good as most of my articles getting featured there and receving a quite good amount of traffic from there.
    for me its no harm to me :)

  2. says

    A very useful article, Laura, thanks very much!

    I’d agree that it is essential that the newspaper social media newspaper be well curated – that is to say, edited to add real value to your users.

    I’m using Flipboard on my iPad – any thoughts on how freelancers could be using/promoting that app?

  3. says

    I’ve been thinking about these for a while here. I don’t think they do any harm but I’m not sure they’re worth any time either. Not that they take a lot of time but whatever time it does take seems to be a waste.

    I really would be open to anyone’s thoughts about some real benefits on them, though. I just can’t see them myself.

  4. says

    Hi Laura great post I have using Post.li for longtime now & I have been receiving some good positive response from my followers, it helped me get more socialized & people are really happy so see their link on the news feed

  5. says

    Thanks everyone for the comments. I created this post partly because of my own curiousity about social media newspapers–there just isn’t a lot of information out there.

    Susan Hallam–I’m not familiar with Flipboard. I’ve heard of it, but that’s about all.

    It sounds like some of you who commented are see a value to the social newspapers. I see potential. I’m not quite sure where they will go.

  6. Deb says

    I see them on Twitter but I never click on the links. So to me they’re apparently not interesting enough. I have too many links to click and things to read as it is…

    (I also have to object to the phrase “If your criteria is poorly chosen” —the word “criteria” is plural, thus it should be “If your criteria ARE poorly chosen”.)

  7. says

    This is a great post Laura and also thanks for including my opinion on the papers.

    For me, it’s all positive feedback and I have connected with many others just by putting out some good information through the papers. Some may not like them and some do, but I have connected with some great folks through my papers and will continue to use them for now.

  8. says

    I’ve seen many Twitter newspapers and honestly they don’t really encourage me to click on them. Maybe the tweets themselves should be customized to make it more interesting that it’ll attract potential readers to click. Other than that, I think it’s a cool invention and would like to try it sometime! :)

  9. says

    I’m not quite understand the benefit of a twitter newspaper. I’m still comfortable with current twitter stream. I mean, if you follow the right guy it’s not that hard to find nice link or info from the stream.

  10. says

    Hi Laura,

    A handful of people I follow have paper.li accounts and tweet their Daily regularly. I’m thinking it’s because I follow less than 200 people that I find these annoying. Because well, all those links shared are links I’ve already read.

    On the other hand, I once had a conversation with a writer I follow who follows more than 500 people and he said it was the same to him: all links already read.

    Or it could be that I was simply following the wrong people. Most of them (I have since unfollowed) named their Daily with their own name. Oh yeah, that’s gonna make me read the papers.

  11. says

    I just started a paper.li account. I was a little put off initially by all the random people posting their daily papers. Once I took the time to see what it was all about, I decided I liked the idea enough to set one up for myself. Currently I’m just using it for my own personal benefit. My daily newspaper is for my entire twitter stream (838) and I get to see a lot of great links that I miss throughout the day. Some are really random, but some are quite meaningful. I have no plans to share it on Twitter because as was mentioned it is quite an eclectic mixture of people and links.

    Thanks for this article! I am going to take your suggestion and start clicking through people’s papers to expand my network!

  12. says

    Great post. I was aware of the newsletters since I’ve received @ Mentions, but found it difficult to capture the value compared to my own keyword Twitter feed. I don’t know if it’s just the way they are set up and if better organization would deliver value.

    I appreciate reading the comments of those who are better versed in the subject than I am.

  13. says

    Copyright infringement?!

    There one serious legal concern left out of this post. These “papers” republish others’ content — often drilling down through the URL to republish the actual content.

    While in Canada and the USA, creating such a paper for your own pleasure may qualify as “fair use” or “fair dealing” respectively, sharing that with others constitutes copyright infringement. Besides being disrespectful to intellectual property, you risk looking ignorant of the law, and risk being sued by the owners of that content.

    While RT is an integral part of Twitter culture, and indeed it could be argued that you agree to it by signing up for an account, I did not expect that my content would be used commercially (i.e., to promote you). (Not that my Tweets are worth republishing. ;-) So I guess that part is hypothetical. Just sayin’.)

    There are two excellent cartoon shorts put out by the US Copyright Clearance Centre, available at http://copyright.com/viewPage.do?pageCode=ed3 (which lists all the videos).

    For example, the CCC grants permission for anyone to download the shorts and use them within their own organization. They also give permission to distribute the URL — in full. But they prohibit anything that would alter the look of their site; such as embedding the video in a player on my own site, which is what Paper.li and the other “news”papers do.

  14. says

    When one of my articles appeared as the lead story in a Twitter paper, blog traffic increased and the number of subscribers grew substantially. I tapped into a whole new network of readers without spending any time or money on promotion.

    I wish I could blame this effect entirely on fabulous content, but I’m too modest to take all the credit. Here’s why I think these tweet-papers offer added value.

    In Twitter, each and every entry gets equal exposure. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Seth or Paul. We share the same social list and our entries seem of equal importance.

    The newspaper-like layout of the Twitter paper changes all that, because it tricks us into believing that whatever appears as the lead, is more important. Since most people don’t read but scan, it helps to make the headlines.

    This is also the Achilles heel of the deal. Twitter papers are pretentious impostors. They appear to be something they’re not. Newspapers offer scoops. Twitter papers reuse and recycle.

    Newspapers select and place content according to relevance. Most Twitter papers can’t tell the difference between what’s relevant and rubbish.

  15. says

    As many of us get a large number of followers, the papers (interesting we would use this term digitally!) are good for one thing, in my opinion: they are a good round-up of the last 24 hours’ worth of Tweets. There’s no way any of us can stay glued to our Tweetstream; Twitter lists are handy for me to check what a select group of people have been Tweeting for, say, the last six hours (I seldom go further), but not 24. I have found things worthy of re-Tweeting in paper.li (the only one I have had experience of so far).

  16. says

    I use Paper.li and the two papers I run have been widely accepted. I get retweets and sometimes follows. I have to disagree with some of your cons. I know you had to have a disadvantage about the papers, but I have yet to receive a nasty tweet from a person who’s tweet was featured. Maybe other services have annoying ways of posting, but Paper.li seems to have a good selections of how long you can wait between scraping the twitter space with your search query.

    I do have to agree though and maybe this will be planned down the road through some kind of service options but they papers need to come up with a way to let the creators monetize if they reach a certain number of subscribers. Maybe like YouTube does it.

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