I’ve recently been added to a few Paper.li posts. I’d heard of Paper.li but hadn’t used it. I’ve seen quite a proliferation of Tweets like “The Joe Smith Daily is out” that leads to Joe Smith’s Paper.li page. For those who haven’t seen it, Paper.li allows users to collect their favorite content, text, tweets, images, video, etc. into a single page that can be seen by anyone they send a link to. On the surface this seems like a great idea. Kind of like Alltop meets Delicious, meets blogs. Looking a little closer gave me some cause for concern.
When I post a tweet that quotes a source, references a study, links to a story written by someone else, I’m making no revenue. I’m sharing information that I found interesting for free. Most sites encourage this, after all the more people that I tell, the more visitors they get, the more ads they sell.
If I have ads on my blog, and I write all of my own content, I’m perfectly justified in collecting revenue from ads. I’m providing something of value to my visitors, they are giving back by looking at the ads on my site (or not, I don’t particularly believe in the power of display ads), and the advertisers are receiving the chance to generate a lead or spread awareness in exchange for paying me to continue to write content to attract visitors. This is the same model that newspapers introduced in the 1700s, that both radio and television continued.
Now, if I reposted, say, a New York Times article on my blog, even if I provided a link back to the original, I’d be interfering with their revenue. If I surrounded that article with ads, I’d be offering someone else’s content and getting paid for their hard work. This is my problem with Paper.li.
My tweets, links, and other content, along with that of other folks I know like CC Chapman, Jim Spencer, Edward Boches, Steve Garfield, etc. are being aggregated into a Paper.li user’s post. This in itself is not a bad thing. After all, the farther our content is spread, the more people can gain value from it. Those that click through the links are more traffic for all of the sites where the content is originally published, which means more revenue. The problem is, Paper.li pages serve ads. This means that whether it’s a video, a tweet, or a link to a New York Times article, Paper.li is making money from it. I’m sure the folks at the New York Times and other publications, or content creators don’t feel great about this.
On one hand I understand the draw a single place for a user to share info they find valuable. The issue is, can these sites use content without the creators’ permission to make money? Paper.li is not alone, Digg and other similar sites are doing the same thing. If I used it for personal use only, a dashboard only I saw, I could see appropriateness of advertising, to get paid for providing me with a content dashboard. But the fact that it is outward facing changes the dynamic. Personally I’m a bit concerned that content publishers may take away their sharing features, if they think others are making money from their content.
I’m curious what other content creators, publishers, or just information sharers think about this?
CNN had similar thoughts on Content Farms, while they don’t mention Paper.li, they agree that this kind of link baiting is one of the Top 10 Tech Fails of 2010