Are we finally achieving truly personalized news? Review of Paper.li

Last week I had a true “eureka” moment when I tried out Paper.li.  I am not saying this product is the end all of personalized news, but in my case, as well as possibly yours, it is as close as I have gotten.

Each day, Paper.li takes all the tweets from accounts you follow and processes them.  They focus on the tweets that have links to articles, photos and videos.  They present this content in easy-to-read web pages that have the feel of a news site. 

Paper.li uses their own internal ranking mechanism to determine what is most relevant, and based on my experience, they do a pretty good job.

Why does Paper.li work so well?

In my case I think it has to do with how I use Twitter.  My follow list is best described as sacred.  If I follow you for any length of time, you can assume I find what you post interesting or meaningful to me.

So by that very nature, I have already put my own curated stamp on whose opinion I value and the content of what they post. This is one of several reasons why Twitter is so popular.  First has to be the ability to connect, but for most people, it is also the ability to custom control what content they receive and by who.

If you do your following via looking at lists, they also offer the option to create their custom pages by list.  You get up to ten unique digests so you can experiment with what works.

Is this product just about news?

I don’t have time to see every photo that is shared during a day, but I can see them all quickly on my Paper.li page.  Toward the bottom of the main page is all the photos that were shared.  I can quickly look through them via a sliding scroll bar and further explore any that catch the eye.  In the few days I have used Paper.li, I have found a number of really cool photos I missed or didn’t take the time to explore the first time around.  They do the same thing for videos.

I am not suggesting that you even share your Paper.li list with others.

I follow a number of different topics via Twitter.  I know I am not so unique in the world that others can’t have similar interests, but I do feel it is the 1 in a 1,000 range. Readers in Lawrence might find some of the local articles interesting, but why not create their own page.  It doesn’t make sense to me to follow someone else’s page when you could get your own customized news related to your interests while including local content.

Potential Issues

If you follow a very popular Twitter account like @Mashable, you can find your main news headlines dominated by this source.  If you go to the topic specific pages on your Paper.li page, you can get more variety, but this is certainly an issue.  While I find Mashable content meaningful, I am not satisfied with them dominating my main news page.

The content itself isn’t focused on Twitter.  While they do provide hashtags that were popular in your feed, they generally only provide links to articles that were shared.  Any information that was contained entirely in a tweet, isn’t featured.  Using Twitter API, I would think that the most popular retweets should be able to be highlight, but that hasn’t been incorporated yet.

I know that people publishing their Paper.li page to Twitter can get old, and the @ mentions for stories you share can start to overwhelm people’s @ feeds.  Thankfully Paper.li makes it possible to opt out of being mentioned on these tweets.  In addition, they don’t default to publishing your digest to Twitter, which I think is the correct move.  If everyone published their daily news page it would be overwhelming, and as I said before, just get your own personalized page.

What about privacy?  If it truly is personalized news, then you might not want other people to see a certain side of you.  Most people aren’t going to dig around into what you follow, but it is a consideration.  It also is limited to what you follow.  Issues related to health conditions, job hunting while employed or even sexual discussions are unlikely to be covered unless you don’t mind following accounts that discuss those issues.

Competitors and the Future

I understand that some are saying Flipboard is doing the same thing, only better.  I don’t have an iPad so I can’t comment on it, but I am certainly interested in trying Flipboard as I get access to the technology or they expand to other platforms.  It seems there is better integration across all your feeds and it is done in close to real time.

Having a couple of companies competing means the future of consolidated, personalized news and content is looking better and better.

Example Page and Your Thoughts

If you want to see an example Paper.li page you can look at the one generated by my @lawrencekslive Twitter account: http://paper.li/lawrencekslive

I am interested in what your experiences have been.  Have you used Paper.li or Flipboard?  What do you think of them?  Do you keep going back?