Social media has altered many aspects of our lives including how we keep in touch with our friends and family. Now social media is also changing the way we find, access and share news. According to a recent study, more than two thirds of Canadians who use social networking sites value them as a way of keeping up with the news . In the US, the trends are very similar, a Pew study found that 32% of Twitter users, use this service to access news articles or read news headlines “sometimes” or on “a regular basis”  and about 44% of Americans in their survey said that “they got news through one or more internet or mobile digital source yesterday” . One of the main reasons for this trend is that social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook have allowed people to consume news from a variety of sources faster and more efficiently than traditional sources would allow such as tv and newspapers.
Following this trend, SmallRivers, a startup from Switzerland, is developing Paper.li – an innovative online service that helps users to find relevant content and new interesting people on the web.
At its core, Paper.li allows people to turn their Twitter streams and public Facebook posts into digital newspapers, turning the average person into a publisher and editor-in-chief of their online lives and interests. The initial goal of this service was to allow Twitter users to view their Twitter feeds in an easy to read newspaper-style format. While this is still one of the primary uses of Paper.li, SmallRivers soon realized that their program contained an active sharing component, as users were viewing one another’s papers in high volumes. For example, one of the most popular newspapers The Joe Rogan Daily, had 400,223 views on June 19th 2011. The sharing culture that has emerged on Paper.li has led its creators to pursue new developments, benefiting users that are sharing their Paper.li “newspapers” .
When it was first released, users were able to access Paper.li to create newspapers displaying news stories only from their Twitter account and that of their own followers. Today, users can create six different kinds of newspapers displaying: posts from a single Twitter user, posts from a single twitter user and their followers, posts from a Twitter list or lists, posts from a Twitter hashtag or hashtags, posts on Twitter keywords, and posts on Facebook keywords. Five distinct streams of content can be viewed in a single ‘paper’ (for example a collection of five hashtags), allowing for a great deal of information to be presented to readers in a single paper. Additionally, Paper.li users are also able to subscribe to and favourite newspapers created by other users, making sharing even easier. The addition of such features, has made Paper.li a very useful tool for discovering the vast amount of user created content available in social media.
But it is not just the public at large that is starting to notice and use Paper.li. Some members of the academic community have also caught on to its usefulness. These include: The Academic Librarian Review, a Twitter keyword paper developed by Michael Steelworthy containing articles of relevance to academic librarians, The ASIST Daily, a daily paper on news and events of relevance to The American Society for Information Science & Technology, and The Google Analytics Daily, a paper on, as the title suggests Google Analytics.
Not only can academics use Paper.li to create newspapers relating to their fields of study or interests (based on relevant keywords or hashtags), but they can also develop papers specific to different conferences or organizations they are a part of, and share these with fellow members. Additionally, academics and the public at large can also subscribe to their colleague’s newspapers, to stay on top of the news that is important to others in their field. In some ways, Paper.li has the potential to address some of the major concerns of scholary users of social media, mainly that it is too time consuming and overwhelming to keep up with information on social media sites .
At this stage, Paper.li is still a work in progress and as it grows it will likely become of even greater use both to academics and social media users at large. But to grow it will need to expand the variety of sources that can be added to a user’s newspaper, as well as to find a balance between being a personalized news page versus a social media tracking dashboard.
Stay tuned for our next post on a similar site: Storify.com. Like Paper.li, storify.com collects posts/tweets from a variety of OSM sites, to build a ‘story’. It sets itself apart, however, by allowing its users to collect content from a vast number of sites including: Flickr, Google, Rss feeds, YouTube, Facebook,Twitter, etc, and publish them as ‘stories’.
*Written by Amanda Wilk, with contribution from Anatoliy Gruzd and Philip Mai.
 Canadian Media Research Consortium (2011). Social networks transforming how Canadians get the news Report. Retrieved from https://news.ubc.ca/2011/04/27/social-media-transforming-how-canadians-get-the-news-study-finds/
 Pew Research Center (2010) Question search: The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Poll Database. Retrieved from: http://people-press.org/question-search/?qid=1770008&pid=51&ccid=51
 Pew Research Center (2010). Americans spending more time following the news. Retrieved from: http://people-press.org/2010/09/12/americans-spending-more-time-following-the-news/
 SmallRivers Team (2010, May 15). TIP : #tag papers, worth reading. Retrieved from: http://blog.paper.li/2010_05_01_archive.html
 Gruzd, A. & Staves, K. (2011). How Online Social Media and Networks Are Changing Scholarly Practice Poster presented at the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) conference.
Available at https://socialmedialab.ca/?p=921