Home PodcastBlog My paper.li Epiphany: Why It Doesn’t Work and How To Fix It
My paper.li Epiphany: Why It Doesn’t Work and How To Fix It

My paper.li Epiphany: Why It Doesn’t Work and How To Fix It

July 23, 2012

I’ve discovered Paper.li 2-3 years ago. I remember being fascinated by it….for about 3 minutes. And then never returning to it ever again. Why?

What is Paper.li?

If you already know, you can skip this section.

From their About page, they say that Paper.li is a content curation service. It enables people to publish newspapers based on topics they like and treat their readers to fresh news, daily.

How Does It Work?

Really, really easy.

You sign in with Twitter and click to create your own newspaper. Amazing! AMAZING! Technology.

If this technology existed in the 90s, it would have put NewYorkTimes (and all other newspaper-y blogs) our of business.

How It’s Used

People usually use it as a self-promotional tool. This is natural, of course. Humans ARE Attention-seeking animals.

I have never, EVER, clicked on someone’s paper.li link to check out what they’ve “curated”. I will explain why in a minute.

How It Should Be Used

I think it would be way more effective if you shined a spotlight on someone else, and hyper-focused it on one subject.

For example, a god way to generate your own paper.li is to include people who are authorities in a particular subject. Pulling all of their work into your paper on weekly basis might come in kinda handy.

Why It Doesn’t Work

The thing is, no matter what you do, it’s not going to result in any tangible benefit, and here’s why.

The people you’ve included in your paper are not going to feel thankful and reciprocate simple because it takes no effort what-so-ever for you to feature them in your paper.

Potential readers are not going to read it because:

  1. They also know it took no work what-so-ever to generate this page
  2. Since it’s SO EASY to generate your own paper, if they want to keep an eye on certain folks, they can just create the paper of their own
Humans are willing to pay more money for hand-made products rather than mass-produced ones. Because we understand, deep down inside, that one is worth more than the other not because it’s better necessarily, but because it took longer to produce.

How To Fix It

Make it harder.

There’s an apocryphal tale of Betty Crocker’s initial failure (in the early 1950s) to appeal to housewives because it provided a ready-made cake mix with everything you need to make your family a delicious cake.

This marketing campaign, which focused on the easy of use, failed miserably.

The sales were sluggish, and the appeal of the product was abysmal.

So, General Mills -the company behind the Betty Crocker brand- put a psychologist to work who came back with an idea. Make it harder, he said.

Remove the egg-mix from the box and have housewives add eggs themselves. This will make them feel like they are part of the process and that they had higher degree of involvement with the baking process.

The theory goes -and it turned out to be correct- that if Betty Crocker does all the work, then she gets all the credit. But if the housewife adds the egg, then that tiny, little small step allows her to see her self as a crucial player in the cake-baking process.

Therefore the satisfaction the family gets from eating the delicious cake goes to the wife, not to Betty Crocker.

Sure enough. Betty Crocker removed the egg-mix, and launched a new marketing campaign focused on the pivotal role of the matriarch in the cake-baking process.

Note the focus on the “homemade goodness”, and “YOU add the eggs”.

Find Yer Egg

I think paper.li needs to find its egg.

Maybe they pull the free version and make it unavailable to all. Turn their technology into a WordPress premium plugin and sell it to businesses who are dying for a good curation-solution.

It has the be a plugin because I want the curated content on my blog, not on paper.li. And no, embedding paper.li on my blog is not enough.

I admire the fact that they developed this technology and they have stuck with their basic model from the get go. I think the basic model is hurting them now.

They need to make it more exclusive. Customer focused (instead of paper.li focused which is currently the case), and they need to find their egg.

Too Easy

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Making things too easy can backfire.

Here’s a 2 part question gor you.

  • How can you make things more difficult for your customer whilst improving their experience?
  • How can paper.li do the same?


Dino Dogan


Dino Dogan

Founder of Triberr. Lousy Mixed Martial Artist and a recovering Network Engineer. Pretty good singer/songwriter, trainer of dogs, and a blogger of biz. Fun at parties and a global force for badassery.

Website: https://diyblogger.net

Twitter: dino_dogan