Another Nail in the RSS Coffin

The default Paper.li view

The default Paper.li view (click to enlarge)

When I first saw the details on the Flipboard iPad app (via Rexblog, I believe), I figured my days of using NetNewsWire on a daily basis were numbered. By creating a newspaper out of the Twitter users you follow, Flipboard offers an incredibly convenient way of reading what they recommend. But since I’ve been holding out for gen 2 of the iPad, the death of my RSS habit was strictly theoretical.

Now that I’ve seen Paper.li, a new Web-based product similar to Flipboard, I think I can hear the nail being firmly hammered into NNW’s coffin. (Yes, I know that the underlying technology of RSS is alive and well; I’m just talking about my use of an RSS reader.)

By drawing its content from a Twitter feed, Paper.li applies a personally meaningful filter to my reading. Rather than subscribing to unmoderated streams of content from sites that only sometimes have articles that interest me, I can now directly read what the Twitter users I follow write or recommend.

The site does a reasonably good job of categorizing the Twittered recommendations into content-based buckets (technology, education, arts & entertainment, business) and types of media (video, stories). It also picks up hashtags like #prodmgmt, adding an invitation to read a paper based on that tag. Since hashtags are, for me, hit or miss, I’m not too impressed—but that could change.

The Paper.li list view

The Paper.li list view (click to enlarge)

Wisely, the site also allows you to view all your articles in a list format, which looks less interesting but offers quicker access to linked content. I have a feeling I’ll tend to favor this view over the default one.

You don’t even need a Twitter account to use Paper.li. You can enter the user name of your favorite Twitterer, like Jeff Jarvis or Mark Schaeffer, to see a newspaper based on their feeds.

The site is supported by Google display ads, which to my eye fit in fairly well with the content. In theory, the ads should be related to content, but my particular Twitterfeed seems to be too ill-defined to produce ads I might actually click on (although I wonder if it is just coincidence that the EasyCloset ad showed up a day after I visited the site).

Since this is my first look at Paper.li (I only learned of it today as I listened to Net@Night while treadmilling), it may turn out to be one of those flash-in-the-pan nice ideas that I quickly abandon. But for the moment, it looks like the real thing.

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