So what’s ‘a newspaper’?

Update: Remembering when an attempt to give away New York Times failed. See end.

The owner's corner on a paper.li page

Does “a newspaper” now mean any page of glowing bits that has frequently changed information organized into sections, with headlines and short summaries linked to more detail?

That appears to be the definition over at Paper.li, whose motto is “read a Twitter stream as a daily newspaper.”

So today I “founded” two newspapers:

Well, maybe I just founded one and “found” the other, or just found both. I can’t tell whether Paper.li required any action by me — or anyone with a Twitter account.

In both cases, the paper.li/feedname site (http://paper.li/bobstep or paper.li/aejmc) includes links to items from feeds the person or organization by that name subscribes to. It doesn’t mean the person even read any of those items.

A sidebar shows selections from the person or organization’s own feed, calling their author “curator” of the paper.li page.

Background: AEJMC is the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, which — like a newspaper — is broken down into sections. One section is the Newspaper Division, for which I keep a Web page and co-author a blog. Coincidentally, our division is pondering whether its name “Newspaper” is still relevant in this day and Web-age.

Apologies  if anyone reading the AEJMC Newspaper Division blog came over here for more details and got only a sense of deja vu. Originally, that post didn’t have any pictures, this one did, and I was going to say more here, but getting the images to show up in two different WordPress systems was too much distraction. (Worth 1,000 words, but also many minutes.)

Not The New York Times Update (as promised above): I must add one more thing, inspired by wondering what The New York Times thinks about having a page at paper.li headed “The New York Times Daily” with “as shared by nytimes + 199 followed people on Twitter” in smaller type beneath.

While I understand the technology and can find the list of 199, I wonder whether the keepers of the Times brand name will understand… and whether anyone stumbling on that page will realize that the stories might not have been written by anyone at the Times. Actually, most of the feeds twitter.com/nytimes subscribes to look like feeds from Times reporters, departments or associates, but their Tweets could be links to non-Times sources. In fact, while I’m typing this latest update the lead item on paper.li/nytimes is actually a story from The Guardian about that other Times in London.

When it comes to use of the “New York Times” name, I wonder if the institution has developed a sense of humor (or modesty) in the past 24 years?

That’s because when I saw that “New York Times Daily” nameplate, I flashed back to 1986 in computer land. That was when the Infocom software/game company, publishers of Zork! (and my favorite, “Leather Goddesses of Phobos”) were convinced by NY Times lawyers to change the name of their little 8 1/2 by 11 user-group newsletter, The New Zork Times, because someone thought a Zork was too much like a York, or something.

The Cambridge company’s response was a name-the-newsletter contest, with the winner to get a free subscription to The New York Times.

In the end, the winner wanted an Infocom game instead, and the headline read “NY Times Can’t Be GIVEN Away.” (Holy cow, it’s still around at an NZT archive.)

mild-mannered reporter who fell deeper into computers and the Web during three trips through graduate school in the 1980s and 1990s, then began teaching journalism, media studies and Web production, most recently as a faculty member at Radford University.

Posted in AEJMC, Journalism, Newspapers, Online-Only, Technology, WebDesign

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