Paper.li – Content Aggregation for Leaders

Picture 1

The Tool: Paper.li is an online content curator that enables individuals to select sources of information, group them, and publish the results in an online newspaper. The tool allows users to select content contributors from Google+, Facebook, RSS Feeds, Twitter, and YouTube, arrange the content by priority, and then add a newspaper title and custom color. The company will then aggregate the information from each content contributor at a predetermined time, and publish a ‘newspaper’ containing all of the content.

The Use: According to Paper.li, the site’s free and premium tools can be used for a variety of functions, including as a business newsletter, to cover individual events, to monitor competitors, to gather an audience, to host a club website, or to simply host a targeted news site. By providing users to ability to easily create and distribute a newspaper-like, multi-source experience, Paper.li enables educators and business to aggregate important data and present it to students, customers, or competitors. In the education world, teachers can use this tool to collect student blog, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube assignments, and present them in one easy-to-navigate location. Teachers can also use the platform to group and present content, provide updates to parents and students, and assemble additional sources of information for easy student consumption. In the business world, companies can use the platform to track markets, reach customers, and aggregate data. In both of these contexts, Paper.li’s true benefit is it’s simple user interface, ability to identify relevant content sources, and automated updating feature.

The Downsides: To see if Paper.li was intuitive and effective, I created a paper to aggregate the content we provide in this course; you can find the paper at http://paper.li/TJB81/1362944379.  Overall, creating the paper was easy and intuitive, but I had a few issues that qualify as downsides. First, while the platform is built to aggregate types of content that frequently change, it updates infrequently. You can choose to update a paper twice daily, once each day, or once each week – for a tool that is built to capture content types that are updated multiple times each day, this seems insufficient. Furthermore, after plugging in content sources, Paper.li pulls articles and videos from those sources that do not relate to the paper’s theme, and it is not easy for authors to filter out those items. For example, when I created our ILD 831 paper, I originally listed all our blog RSS feeds, and Paper.li arranged a daily paper that aggregated those posts in one place. Nice. Then, I decided to add some additional Twitter and YouTube content, so I searched for “leadership” and “technology” and selected a few sources that the interface suggested. The next edition of the paper led with a story about a spare car parts market in Lagos, Nigeria, and did not contain any blog posts from class members. This certainly lessened the usefulness of the paper, and made me wary of adding certain types of content.

The Leadership Perspective: Overall, Paper.li functions as an interesting way to aggregate information and present it through a desktop browser. While the product does have some issues (in addition to the two I outlined, the site seemed to have trouble grabbing some RSS feeds, and some blog interfaces like WordPress will not allow users to embed Paper.li javascript codes in their blogs), it provides an attractive, easy, and cost-effective way to present content from selected sources in one place. This tool certainly has leadership uses – from using a Paper.li to keep employees informed to aggregating content that an institution produces to tracking competitors or providing customers with a targeted source of news, leaders can use Paper.li to communicate, inform, and influence. With consumers now expecting a constant stream of content, Paper.li can serve as a leader’s personal and targeted aggregator and, as such, the site fills a viable leadership and management need.

Friedman vs. Florida

Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat and Richard Florida’s The World is Spiky offered competing hypotheses on the underlying drivers of the world’s current economic order. Friedman’s Flat World hypothesis suggested that technological advances have provided individuals with the power to collaborate and compete globally and, in doing so, have begun to develop a single knowledge network that is raising standards of living in developing places and providing developed countries with additional markets and demands. According to Friedman, this ‘flattening’ of the world enables companies and individuals to source work anywhere and has created an environment where companies must take advantage of market and labor arbitrage strategies that decrease costs and increase efficiency through off-shoring and outsourcing (Friedman, 2007). Ultimately, Friedman concluded, this allows companies to “be more global than ever and, yet, at the same time, more personal than ever” (2007, p. 45).

 Conversely, Florida analyzed geographic, patent generation, and economic activity data and concluded that a few cities and regions are responsible for the vast majority of global innovation and growth. With patent generation and scientific advances concentrated in several American, European, and Asian cities, Florida suggested that “surprisingly few regions truly matter in today’s global economy” (2005, p. 48). According to Florida, innovation, economic growth, and prosperity occur in the locations that attract top creative talent and, due to economic forces that are concentrating people and resources, a few cities and regions that drive the world economy are growing while other locations are languishing (2005). Finally, in a nod to Friedman’s Flat World meme, Florida stated that the current economic order has resulted in a slight dispersal of the world’s peaks and a shift of the world’s hills. However, these shifts have not fundamentally altered the reality that innovation remains firmly concentrated.  

Of these two competing interpretations, Florida’s innovation concentration model resonated with me and is more supported by available GDP statistics. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the world’s largest 100 cities generated 38% of total global GDP in 2007, while the largest 600 cities generated over 60% of global GDP in the same year (McKinsey, 2011). Company analysts predicted that 2 billion people will live in the world’s largest 600 cities by 2025, a number that equates to 25% of the global population. Within this selection of cities, the major urban areas in developed regions accounted for the majority of the total GDP figure, with the 380 developed world cities listed in the top 600 responsible for over 50% of 2007’s global GDP (McKinsey, 2011).  These figures indicate economic activity is extremely concentrated in a small number of urban, mostly developed-world locations.

Interestingly, McKinsey analysts agreed with Florida that the world’s peaks and hills will shift over the next decade; based on population growth estimates and other factors, the company projected its list of the world’s 600 largest cities will change as the center of gravity of the urban world moves to China, India, and Latin America. This shift, which will see the rise of over 100 major cities in China and over a dozen in India, will provide development opportunities in these locations and create additional markets for multinational corporations interested in expanding to high-growth population centers. This is where I see the applicability of Friedman’s Flat World theory – these upcoming urban areas will benefit from the trends Friedman identified and will likely grow faster and contribute more to GDP because residents are more able to collaborate and compete globally and corporations are more inclined to invest and recruit in these areas. Overall, I see the world flattening in certain specific locations – while Friedman is correct that the companies and individuals possess technology that enables them to work effectively from anywhere, GDP growth, patent production, population growth, and general economic activity is still concentrated in a very small number of places. This suggests that the technology Friedman identifies as responsible for leveling the global playing field is mainly doing so and will continue to do so in a small number of urban centers.   

 In terms of this week’s learning objectives, new media and web-based tools and practices are certainly enabling individuals and corporations to employ out-sourcing, home-sourcing, and other labor practices that save time and money. Furthermore, these tools are encouraging collaboration, developing new avenues for investment, and increasing productivity. With the advent of new media and web tools, workers have more freedom of movement, more access to information, and are better able to communicate, connect, and produce without regard to time and space. These factors are driving productivity gains while also fundamentally changing the relationship between an employer and an employee – with such easy access to data and the ability to work from anywhere, the barriers between the office and the home are deteriorating and employees are expected to remain in constant contact with their professional responsibilities. This is slowly erasing the typical defined hour work week for many professionals, and replacing it with a work continuum that accounts for time, space, duties, and connectivity capabilities.

Florida, R. (2005, October). The World is Spiky. The Atlantic Monthly, 48-51.

Friedman, T. (2007). The World is Flat (3rd ed.) New York: Picador.

McKinsey Global Institute. (2011). Urban World: Mapping the Economic Power of Cities. McKinsey & Company.

Creighton University ILD 831

This blog contains weekly assignments and thoughts from ILD 831, Technology and Leadership. The course is part of Creighton University’s Doctor of Eduction in Leadership program, and it examines how leaders can strategically focus on the use of digital technology to enhance their organization and connect to the world.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.