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.