Storify has to be hot property of the year, in the world of digital journalism. For those of you that have been living under a rock, it allows users to curate and compile social media in order to create a narrative. It’s gone from strength to strength over the last couple of years, becoming an increasingly popular journalism tool.
Personally, I’ve found the project really interesting, both as a journalism tool, and as a small digital media startup. The platform’s main developer and co-founder, Xavier Damman, was on the Integrated Storytelling panel at last week’s news:rewired event, and I went along to hear what he had to say, and managed to catch him afterwards to ask a couple of questions of my own too.
In his presentation, Xavier spoke about how social media has given people a platform, effectively making them reporters. “Everyone can be a reporter,” he said, “but not everyone is a journalist.”
In the overwhelming mass of information that surfaces on social media during an event, it’s a journalists job to “take the information from those who have it, and give it to those to need it.” He branded journalists as “information engineers;” people who extract the important voices from the noise and make them heard. He spoke simply and directly about curation in digital journalism, and made it abundantly clear why Storify works and why we need it.
So, we need news curation, and I believe Storify is the platform to use. However, when you build a platform like Storify, you can’t always be sure what users will do with it when you put it out there. Speaking to Damman afterwards, I asked him about how Storify has been increasingly used for live news coverage and what he thought about this. Even our sister site, Fashion Hacks, chose to use Storify to provide live coverage of London Fashion Week, rather than a more conventional tool such as Cover It Live.
Storify isn’t designed for live coverage, but Damman said that they are always surprised by what users are coming up with and how people are using the tools- it’s a good thing. I think it’s promising that as an industry, we can think outside the box and innovate when given a good set of tools to use. It’s also important that a company like Storify is flexible and accepting of how its tools are used, and that was very much the case with Damman.
But this is about more than giving journalists a shiny new toy. This is a business too, and there doesn’t seem to be any money in journalism lately. Storify received a $2M initial investment from Khosla Ventures, but they’ve not yet made any public steps towards monetisation. When I asked Damman about it, he said there are still no there are no plans to monetise the platform yet. Does it matter?
I think not. Storify is still in Beta, it’s still in development, and still growing (just last week, Storify added SoundCloud integration). They are building an effective tool that independent journalists seem to love using. And it’s not just independent journalists either; larger organisations such as The Guardian and The Washington Post have even been using the it to compliment traditional reporting. I even heard two delegates talking afterwards about how young wannabes are turning to Storify for big breaking news stories just to prove themselves (good on you, I say).
Storify then, is widely popular at all levels of the industry. When the time comes to monetise it, and Damman and his team feel they are ready to leave beta, I’m confident they’ll have created a tool and a platform that big media organisations and independent journalists alike will pay to be a part of (although I suspect that there will always be a free-to-use element). To put it in perspective, Instagram, the popular iPhone app, has now grown to be as big as foursquare in a fraction of the time and remains free to use; when the time comes to turn on the revenue streams, they’ll be ready, and they’ll do it well. Storify just need to concentrate on perfecting their platform, and ironing out bugs in beta- watch closely.
Here’s a Storify I made of the news:rewired conference. Scroll to session 2A to see some great content from the Integrated Storytelling session, read Damman’s slides, and hear an interview with him.
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look