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March 4, 2016, 11:35 a.m.
Aggregation & Discovery

This.cm wants to deliver the only links you’ll really read each evening

“We don’t want to be a social newspaper, but a social magazine.”

I’m signed up for every newsletter imaginable, from New York Times briefings to Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter to a newsletter targeted at teens to public media training newsletters to our own here at Nieman Lab (shameless plug: we have two options).

I make it through a handful in the morning but can barely stomach more. The share-one-link-per-day company This.cm, which opened to all users last year after a period of invite-only incubation that left thousands of people clamoring for an invitation, is refining further its nightly email offering to stem the Internet firehose.

ThisCM-newsletter-screenshot

Now the evening email delivered to This.cm users who have registered and are “following” other users — whether favorite writers or publications — will highlight links to stories shared by the people/publications users follow. At the moment, these are the most recent things shared in a user’s network that day, though according to This.cm founder Andrew Golis, “we’ll be experimenting with the rules in the coming weeks as we get a sense of what works best.” Users will still receive five links picked by a This.cm editor, though they can opt to receive only the five handpicked links, five links from followers, or both. (For a period This.cm also featured guest editors curating links each night; those were hit or miss for me, but they did deliver real gems, often from publications I’d never even heard of.)

The new shape of the evening newsletter, Golis said, is the full embodiment of his original vision for the site: “I just wish I got an email from someone like Ta-Nehisi every night with the subject line ‘This.’ and a single link. I’d click it every time.”

As Golis explained to me in email:

The limit of one link a day does two things.

First, it allows the sharer to mark something as special. We see the rest of social media in a crazy arms race of volume and optimization, where attention goes to whoever is the loudest or most calculating, not the person with the best taste. By limiting everyone to sharing one link a day, we’re letting our members show off their rad taste without them worrying it will be drowned out.

Second, that one link a day limit tends to take “news” off the table. You almost never see someone share a breaking news story on the site. That kind of live information experience is really well-served by Twitter, and the products that aggregate its signals. Instead, the limit on This. encourages people to share things that are more evergreen: essays and narratives and bits of entertainment that will be interesting for at least 24 hours, not just the next five minutes. We don’t want to be a social newspaper, but a social magazine.

Nuzzel, which rolled out automated newsletters with non-superusers of Twitter in mind, offers a similarly restrained and efficient service. (I’ve spoken to many reporters and editors, too, who mention scanning Nuzzel as an important part of their morning routine.)

On Nuzzel, though, I tend to get the “newsier” stories, which for me means stories about Facebook opening up Instant Articles to all publishers or The New York Times finally selecting three David Carr fellows. As Golis has emphasized, the pace of This.cm surfaces instead longer, evergreen pieces that last at least a day, more often longer.

(Coincidentally, in my This.cm curated newsletter last night were two stories also in my Nuzzel newsletter.)

This.cm is not releasing specific user numbers, but according to Golis, its base has “grown a few times over since launching in the fall” (back in August we reported 11,000 users and 28,000 on the waitlist).

“The nightly This. 5 newsletter of our favorites from the site that day has been running since the beginning, and is hugely popular with our members (so much so that we recently made it available to non-members, because so many members wanted to sign up their friends),” Golis said. “But we always knew that, as our network got bigger and its interests got more diverse, we’d need to allow people to have a custom version of that nightly email that reflects their interests and the people they follow on the site.”

POSTED     March 4, 2016, 11:35 a.m.
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