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5th September, 2010

If you’ve been active on Twitter recently, you will have no doubt come across paper.li. You know, those autotweets that crop up from time to time encouraging you to click through and read xx’s ‘Daily’.

Essentially, paper.li takes your most recent tweets and puts them (and the sources they link to) in a supposedly easy to read, newspaper-style format. A daily round-up of the things you find interesting. As the creators themselves say:

“paper.li organizes links shared on Twitter into an easy to read newspaper-style format. Newspapers can be created for any Twitter user, list or #tag.A great way to stay on top of all that is shared by the people you follow – even if you are not connected 24/7 !”

Bridging the gap

It certainly sounds an interesting concept. Microblogging has always been a fantastic route for those that didn’t want to commit to a full-blown blog, but still wanted to share interesting links and thoughts with a wider audience. The problem arises that when you start following multiple people on Twitter; the information overload issue comes to the fore. Paper.li attempts to solve this by giving a round-up of what you and your followers have said and shared so far. And, if the number of automated tweets are anything to go by, the service is increasingly popular.

Where’s the value?

But I wonder if anyone is actually consuming this content. The autotweets themselves (I’ve blogged before on my feelings towards autotweets, so no need to dwell too much on the issue here) give very little indication of the content that lies beyond. For this reason, I’m usually inclined to ignore them. I’ve seen others also tweeting about their increasing frustration too.

Another reason is that, when I do click through, there seems to be very little added value. You get a list of links and snippets of articles. One or two might be of interest, a couple you’ve probably already seen (no doubt one or two from Mashable!) and some just won’t be of interest.

There’s no personal insight.

A lazy way to spew out more content?

We know the perceived wisdom that ‘content is king’ online, but it seems to me that content only really works when it is interesting and compelling. I think the ‘information overload’ issue is a really interesting one. We’ve moved away from the forced curation of content that we had in the past with newspaper editors and the traditional offline media dictating what we should and shouldn’t read and think (and I know this is still very powerful even today). But we’ve haven’t quite found a way to replace this and ‘manage’ the massive amounts of data that are bombarded in front of us on a daily basis.

For me there is an opportunity out there for a forward looking startup. Tweetdeck and the like may still be the way forward – I’m increasingly using lists in Hootsuite to segment tweeters – and the content they tweet – that I really want to keep an eye on. This is personalised curation and is surely the way forward. I’m just not sure whether the automated curation that we see with paper.li will ever gain much real traction apart from with those that are too lazy to add value and curate for themselves.

continue reading: Why paper.li and automated curation are doomed to fail...