As more people use social media to share news and information, journalists will need more powerful and effective tools to make sense of these online discussions. Storify.com is one such tool that has been growing in popularity and is attracting attention as a major innovation in journalism.
What exactly is Storify? Burt Herman, co-founder and chief executive officer of the company, describes it as "a way to curate social media and publish the best of what's happening online." Storify lets users search across multiple social networks and use this content in stories as diverse as breaking news, sports coverage, live events and natural disasters. Herman, along with co-founder Xavier Damman, currently work with a small team of two developers out of their San Francisco office.
Himself a former foreign correspondent and bureau chief with the Associated Press, Herman says the idea for Storify came from thinking about how a modern news wire might be developed in a world where any person with a mobile phone is a potential reporter. "The idea with Storify is to create an information network, a curation layer on top of social media to help find out what is going on in the world through the eyes of everybody on the ground."
"Getting started with Storify is easy. A user can login with an existing Twitter account and instantly begin creating stories. The interface allows for searching of Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and other social media sites for any topic or phrase. Content associated with the search term is displayed on the left side of the screen and the user may drag and drop any of the items into the story on the right side of the screen. Adding comments and links allows the reporter to provide context for the reader. The story can then be published to the Storify site or via the more useful method, which is the ability to embed the story on a blog or website. Additionally, Storify provides a way to automatically alert people whose posts have been used, which in turn may encourage them to share the story with their own social networks. A recent feature of Storify includes a partnership with SnappyTV to offer 20-second clips from live television.
Anyone can use Storify to enhance their content with social media, but news organizations using it have found it a unique way to add value to what's already being consumed. "Journalists need to prove that they are sifting out information, working in social media, finding things that are relevant and helping people understand what is going on in their world," says Herman.
Since it's launch in late 2011, Storify has attracted some notable attention in media and technology circles. Early on, the company received a $2 million capital investment from well known Silicon Valley venture capital firm Khosla Venures. They emerged as the winner of the Accelerator competition in the News-related Technologies category at the South By Southwest Interactive Conference and they won the grand prize at the Knight Batten Awards for Innovation in Journalism. To top things off, Storify was named one of the Top 50 Websites of 2011 by Time Magazine.
The future appears to hold much promise for Storify, with plans to innovate by adding commenting features and improving the way readers can interact with the site. "We really want to now create a richer experience for those who aren't creating stories," says Herman.