About three weeks ago I set up a paper.li called Digital Music Digest. I love this publishing tool. It let’s you quickly aggregate feeds and display them as a clean looking news site, like The Guardian. A few factors distinguish paper.li from any old feeds aggregator : 1) close social media integration; 2) a publishing cycle 3) curation.
Social integration and promotion
When you set up a paper.li it encourages you to log in with a Twitter or Facebook account – this then makes it easy publicise your paper to existing friends and followers; alerting them whenever a new paper is out. This means that you don’t have to remember to tell people every time its out. Added to this, if people decide to follow you they can receive an email newsletter every time there’s a new edition.
By only publishing editions either, daily, bi-daily or weekly, there is an impetus to visit your paper. Whereas a site that’s constantly updating won’t necessarily prompt you to visit it, paper.li encourages people to see what’s new . This cycle also allows you time to check whether the content that the feeds have gathered is up to scratch, before singing about it.
Not only can you define feed sources, promote articles up the page and delete them, you can also filter feeds in elaborate ways. For example, I pulled in a feed from New Media Age stories, but I only feature ones that have the word ‘music’ in their description or title. You needn’t just limit your articles to RSS feeds. Facebook comments, Twitter comments, Google searches and video searches can all be used to populate your paper.
A fairly new feature which has made the world of difference for me is the ‘Publish It!’ button. This allows you to pull in any article you see into your paper, even if the source isn’t in your feed. So, if you’ve time, you can hone the paper to something very exact.
Learnings and limitations
I decided there was a gap in the market for a decent digital music summary for the UK. There’s some great publications like CMU Daily , Music Ally and Digital Music News, but I want them in one place and with articles from other sources too.
All I had to do is find the RSS feed for each of these and then add them to my Paper. I also added some filters to cut out articles from certain sections or topics (via keywords on the title and description fields). I also brought in more general sources like MusicWeek and filtered stories with terms like ‘digital’ and ‘streaming’.
I soon came up against some limitations of paper.li . The first one is that you are limited to about five feed sources. Sure you can manually add from other sources, but I want this to be as automated as possible. I got around this issue by aggregating feeds via Yahoo Pipes and then bringing in the resulting RSS feed as a single source. The second limitation was that MusicWeek ‘s RSS title field doesn’t publish the article’s title, just the name of the publication. Again I turned to Yahoo Pipes to assign the articles’ description field as the title.
Alerts also bug me. Unless you’re signed up to the newsletter followers of your twitter will just see ‘Digital Music Digest is out now!’. That doesn’t give them a good reason to click. Instead it should pull in the lead article’s headline and link to your paper for more. I often do a summary tweet of the articles when Digital Music Digest is out, yes its manual but also it is more engaging.
The final limitation is the URL. It is not very pretty, just using your twitter name and numbers. There is no way round this at the moment, but when I mail the link out I use a customised bit.ly ( http://bit.ly/DigitalMusicDigest ).
As far as criticisms, these are pretty minor considering it is a fairly new product and I’m sure they’ll get added shortly. In the meantime, find a niche you know about and get publishing.