Less reliance on search engines and a heavier reliance on links shared via social networks: that’s how the future is panning out for finding information online. Already we are seeing traffic to search engines starting to fall sharply, down between 15% and 20% in the last year alone in the US depending on whose figures you look at. In its place, people are increasingly using links shared by their friends or acquaintances via social networks.
However, although some social networks such as Facebook make efforts to prioritise the blizzard of links that can come your way, the interfaces generally do very little to present those links in formats that make them easy to skim through and the management options to control whose links you see are often limited.
As a result, several new services are springing up which take sets of links and present them in different ways. One getting a lot of attention from early technology adapters is paper.li with its tagline "Read Twitter as a daily newspaper".
Given a Twitter account, hastag or list to use, paper.li then produces a daily online newspaper based on the links shared in the previous 24 hours. With its mix of headlines, photos and use of white space it presents the links in a format that is much easier to skim read than a simple listing of tweets or web addresses as you can see from the example at http://paper.li/markpack/engine-group.
This example is based on the tweets sent from people across the Engine Group, one of whose companies I work for. Across the group there’s a range of knowledge about many disciplines that I have an interest in but not the time to follow in detail day by day. What is currently the big news in advertising, direct mail, data manipulation or sports sponsorship all interests me, though none of them are disciplines I have the time to follow the trade press or gaggle of leading bloggers regularly. Bring together a selection of shared links from people who work across all these areas and bingo – you have a selection of the news that suits me.
No longer do I have to pick another editor and hope that their choices suit me, nor do I need to directly curate content myself. Instead I can put together a list of other people, precisely the mix that I want, and let them do the curation for me. I get the benefits of stumbling across unexpected content combined with the benefits of seeing eclectic content that is usually going to interest me.
Whether or not paper.li turns out to be the big player in this field, services of this sort look to have a very bright future – and an important implication for how we all find information in future.