Should lawyers have their own Paper.li?

Publish and be damned!

Publish and be damned!

A week or so ago I noticed a little difficulty arise between Scott Greenfield and Rocket Matter concerning Paper.li. Whilst this started on Twitter it soon moved onto their respective blogs. Scott’s blog post Rocket Doesn’t Matter told us:-

“There is was, right on twitter this morning, much to my surprise.

The Rocket Matter, LLC Daily is out! http://bit.ly/hqNe3L ▸ Top stories today via @consumerfinance @lavocate @davisesq212 @scottgreenfield

It’s not the first time I’d seen a twit like this, but the first time I actually looked at it.  It occurred to me I had no idea who or what Rocket Matter is and what their daily had to do with me.  So I looked.

It turned out to be another of those internet Dailies, the fad for those who create nothing to have something to use to market themselves by glomming off the content of others.  Most of the stuff was typical social media garbage, apparently the sort of stuff they find interesting. But why me?  Why was my post in there?

There’s no commentary.  There’s no “value added.”  It’s as if the editor of the New York Times went through a bunch of stories in other newspapers and put them together to make a New York Times, but without asking anyone’s permission.”

Scott went on to wonder whether this was all some kind of marketing tool for Rocket Matter where they were perhaps using his and “other people’s content, without permission, to create the fodder by which they are marketing themselves”. Scott’s conclusion is that this is what is going on and for him what “is not okay is to use my content as the lunch meat for your marketing sandwich”.

Scott will have no difficulty with The Time Blawg’s sandwich (if this post could be described as that) given his view:-

“Fair use, meaning commentary, discussion, whether for or against, or merely to substantiate a point, is great with me.  Anyone and everyone, even marketers, are free to grab a quote, sentence or even a couple of paragraphs if it makes sense, as part of a discussion.”

Scott was usefully told by Antonin Pribetic that you could avoid appearing in a Paper.li Daily by sending a tweet to @NewsCrier (and not @TownCrier as suggested in the comments to Scott’s blog post). So Scott duly tweeted News Crier. I will come back to the effectiveness or otherwise of this later on.

However, by the time Scott had taken this action Rocket Matter had decided to pull their Daily. In Boy Did I Step into a Hornet’s Nest with Paper.li we learn:-

“So about six months ago or so I signed up for this service called “Paper.li” which creates an online newspaper out of the tweets of your followers. I found it interesting, because it’s kind of like Twitter on shuffle.

Turns out some authors were getting annoyed when they would get picked up by Paper.li…

One attorney in particular, Scott Greenfield, wrote a blistering post about our use of Paper.li and how he felt we were freeloading his content to further our marketing goals. It was compounded by a misread on my part about the nature of our Twitter correspondence (did I mention that I’m dense that way)? I thought we were good natured-ly joking, even when I told him he complains “like an old woman or a bus” and was totally taken aback when I saw his post, feeling we were using his content to market our product…

Needless to say, our goal was not to freeload content. Paper.li was one of those things you sign up for and then forget about. We produce a lot of content ourselves, so we are sensitive to Mr. Greefield’s concerns, and I killed the daily without thinking twice.”

Then the other day I saw a tweet from CharonQC:-

“These twitter daily newspaper proclaiming *The Too Farking Lazy To write My Own Blog Is out* dailies are very tedious :-) Write your own!”

I started to wonder whether Dailies did have any purpose to serve if they were annoying some of our most respected Twegals. Would it be wise for a lawyer or a law firm to publish one? I have of course seen plenty of Paper.lies but had not published one myself. There are some good law related ones: The Guardian Law Daily and Legal-Conections Daily spring to mind. My own content often appears in them but I had no knowledge as to how they were created or exactly how the content was selected.

As research in preparing this blog post I decided to publish The Time Blawg Daily on Paper.li. This would give me an understanding of how it works and I can always pull the Daily if I upset anyone. I discovered that you can set it not to automatically issue tweets about every edition like the tweet that brought The Rocket Matter Daily to Scott Greenfield’s attention. However, how will anyone ever know about your Daily if you don’t tweet about it? Perhaps no one else needs to know directly about it and it can remain ‘your very own Daily’. More on that later.

It took me only a few minutes, if that, to set The Time Blawg Daily up. Basically once a day (although you can publish twice a day or weekly instead) Paper.li automatically takes Tweets from who you are following and puts them into an online newspaper format. You have no real control (as far as I can see) as to what this content might be – other than of course the fact that it comes from people you follow. There is an advanced setting (which I have not explored properly yet) which allows you to create more focused papers:-

“You can query Twitter with a more complex search term than just a #tag (e.g. find all the tweets that talk about climate AND carbon but NOT solar = climate carbon -solar).

You can also restrict the Twitter users that can contribute content to the paper by specifying a Twitter list.

Note that this is a first step in providing you with more editorial control. More features are on the way…”

As far as I can see a Paper.li gives you in one place each day (or twice a day or weekly if you prefer) some of what may be the more interesting tweets and content from the people that you follow. From a personal point of view, without necessarily having to tweet it out to everyone else, this could be a useful and quick way of keeping abreast of what is going on without having to look through your whole Twitter stream for the day. You might well pick up on interesting content that you would otherwise have missed. The same goes for anyone who reads your Paper.li.

Is it, in effect, the ‘Daily Me’ (or a step towards that) as discussed by Nicholas Negroponte in his book Being Digital? This is explored by Richard Susskind in The End of Lawyers:-

“Negroponte discussed the idea of the Daily Me – a newspaper, delivered electronically every morning, made up of news, comments, and reportage but containing only topics of direct interest to each particular reader. Each reader, in other words, receives a personalized newspaper that only contains items of direct interest to him or her.”

Your own Paper.li may not be quite as focussed as envisaged by Negroponte. However, it is likely to contain a fair amount of topics of direct interest to you if you follow people on Twitter that have similar interests to you.

Are they a marketing ploy? I don’t really see them as this. They are more about the content (which the publisher has little control over anyway) than the publisher themselves. The adverts on them benefit Paper.li and not the publisher. The first edition of The Time Blawg Daily had adverts for Living Social, Groupon and Google Adwords which again I have no control over.

However, as a publisher, you may end up being associated with content that you would rather not be associated with. Likewise as an innocent Tweeter you may end up in a Paper.li that you would rather not appear in. You might be happy to be in most Paper.lies but not certain ones. Can you control that?

As we have seen you can create a blanket ban using @NewsCrier. Or can you? As we saw earlier Scott Greenfield tweeted @NewsCrier. However, low and behold, he is in the first edition of The Time Blawg Daily! It is not his own content but a tweet from Scott about ‘Rumsfeld To Get ‘Defender Of The Constitution’ Award At CPAC‘. Sorry, Scott I was not expecting that to happen.

So does @NewsCrier not work? How else could you prevent your tweets appearing in a Paper.li. I suppose you could block the publisher. That should work as the publisher would no longer be following you so your tweets would not be picked up by the Paper.li. That would also be one way of selecting a Paper.li you didn’t want to be in but still allowing publication in others. However, is it extreme to block someone just because they have decided to publish a Paper.li?

@ErikJHeels has been blocking people who retweet Paper.li tweets, as well as those who publish a Daily, as he considers it to be spam. To stop seeing such retweets (as opposed to the publications) he just needs to unfollow. Blocking is perhaps a bit severe for that purpose.

Even blocking a publisher to prevent you appearing in their Paper.li (or using @NewsCrier if it actually works) will not necessarily prevent your content appearing in a Paper.li. This is because if someone else tweets your content it will potentially appear in a Paper.li. Thus in the first edition of The Time Blawg Daily there is content from the BBC News website. @TheTimeBlawg is not following any BBC twitter accounts. However @TheTimeBlawg is following @PurplesmurfLLB and it is as a result of her tweeting the BBC content that it appears in The Time Blawg Daily. Thus, can you really ever avoid your own online content appearing in a Paper.li?

If you are a lawyer or a law firm chances are you will be following many other lawyers and law firms. Some of these may be direct competitors to you. As a result you might not want to publish content that leads people to their websites or blogs rather to your own. Paper.li is perhaps more about others than it is about you. Is it really marketing who you are following rather than you? However, that sharing/giving has potential benefits to you in the long run as indeed such activity has on Twitter. But on Twitter you perhaps have more control on what you do share/give than you have with a Paper.li.

What do you think?

What are your views on Paper.li? Do you mind your content appearing in them? Do you publish one and if so what are the pros and cons you have seen? Do you think Paper.li is spam? Does it warrant blocking or unfollowing? Is it a marketing tool and, if so, for who? Should lawyers have their own Paper.li?

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