Social media may have changed the way we get our news, but Burt Herman and Xavier Damman, co-founders of Storify, have revolutionized the way we get our news through social media.
Since Storify became available to the public, the service has offered storytellers—from news organizations to bloggers to brands—a way to curate the best tweets, videos, and photos to essentially shrink social media. In Herman’s words, the service can “stop time.”
For instance, within moments of a shooting reported on the campus of MIT on Thursday night—an event later connected to the Boston bombings—several people used Storify
to collect the most authoritative social media updates to help tell the story. Recently, the Denver Post
included its Storify coverage of the Aurora, Colo. theater shootings as part of its winning Pulitzer submission.
While Storify’s value to news organizations is now indisputable, its business value is still being determined (not unlike the platforms from which it curates content). Is it a news destination or simply a service that organizations can pull into their own sites?
Or is it a content marketing tool that brands should be jumping all over? Brands such as Pepsi
, the San Francisco 49ers
have already used the platform in some interesting ways.
It’s up to Herman and his team to make the service more attractive to those willing to pay for premium service. To that end, the company recently launched Storify Business, which offers private stories that companies may not want to share with the public. Storify Business also offers custom story embeds and enhanced support.
We caught up with Herman recently to find out more about what Storify is up to, and what’s in store for its future.
How has Storify evolved since its launch?
We started off with the tool—basically a way to bring social media together as a publishing tool. It came from journalism. My background is as a reporter for the AP. I worked for 12 years, mostly overseas, as a correspondent.
We were really thinking, as news is happening people are reporting what they see all around the world. That’s great, but it’s also really overwhelming and normal people aren’t going to sit there and sift through Twitter to find out what’s happening at the Boston Marathon. Or in Chicago with the floods in the area [last week], how can we bring together this amazing on-the-ground resource but make sense of it and put it into a forum that regular people understand? That’s where we started—purely news and taking what’s out there—and I guess we’ve seen different evolutions along the way.
That idea of being able to stop real time and take things out and save them somewhere seems to be useful for more than just news. We saw newsrooms doing this—not publishing but sharing draft stories to share internally—but we also noticed that getting responses are key for brands, too. PR agencies, ad agencies are doing product launches and social campaigns and wanting to mine the data. They might be using all these algorithmic tools to do that for sentiment analysis and broad-based statistics, but also they’d just like to show that, “We posted this, and this is what people said.”
[Editor’s note: The Chicagoist’s Storify coverage of the floods in Chicago, which was featured on Storify’s front page Thursday, can be found here.]
How will Storify Business change the way brands use the service?
The main way brands are reporting on social media chatter right now, I guess, is maybe taking screen shots on Twitter or cutting and pasting things, but they’re losing links to the original source. It’s cumbersome. We’re just realizing that we can be useful for that. That’s really why we are launching Storify Business. You can create private stories and share them internally and use it more for this internal reporting, not necessarily for the outside world. So I think that’s one thing that’s really changed for us—this idea of realizing that fundamental value of stopping time and collecting items from the stream is not just for news. It’s applicable to a lot of things.
Can you speak to how you’ve moved to monetize Storify and how you plan to continue to do so in the future?
Another thing we’ve done is increasingly try to feature what our users are doing on our own site to show the best of what’s out there. So it kind of creates something of a news destination that points you to different places that have the best stuff. So that’s something we’ve looked into doing, too. We haven’t monetized that at all. Obviously that would be more of an advertising type of play and that’s something we’re still thinking about and thinking of working together with the people using Storify to share revenues in that.
We’ve also done some one-off projects here and there. We let certain users customize things like user APIs, so we were able to monetize with some experiments in doing that. That’s also why we’ve expanded into offering more options for businesses.
You’ve created a new necessary skill for journalists—relevant social media curation—is that something you’ve given much thought to?
Yeah, it’s kind of funny. We would always ask when we first launched, “What do you call what you create on Storify?” We just call it a story. It’s a story like any other; this one just happens to have tweets and Instagram photos and YouTube videos. But out in the world, people start using it and people do use it today as “a Storify.” It’s almost a new form of media. It’s not just a story, it’s a Storify, which is interesting to see.
When I talk to journalists, I say, “This is the same thing you’ve always done.” People in Silicon Valley call it curation, they apply all these buzzwords. But really, what have reporters always done? They go to a press conference, they take all these notes, and they decide what the most important thing is that was said. They filter it, order it, and give context to it. Now you’re just plugging in new sources.
What are some of the ways you’re seeing brands find success on Storify?
It’s interesting, one thing brands have done is to not just think about mining social channels for what people are saying, but actually trying to drive engagement by pushing out a hashtag and then get people to respond to that and fold the best things into a story.
I don’t know if this counts as a brand, but some of the people that have been doing that really well is the White House and the Obama campaign. Around the tax cut last year, they started this whole #My2K
campaign where they asked what people would do with the extra $2,000 they would get if Congress passed it. They pulled the best answers into Storify and published it on the White House blog.
What’s been the biggest surprise for you since the service launched?
Herman: In some ways, some of the usage has surprised me. We didn’t intend to build a tool for brands because we were so focused on journalism. But finding that there are a lot more uses than we thought of has surprised me. I hadn’t really thought of the business use or the use of going out and getting people to actively contribute to something and collect that into a story. I viewed it as more of a passive collection of what’s out there.