Storify: The Reinvention of Storytelling

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Is Storify, the new just-outta-beta storytelling tool, poised to change reporting? Or is it just another microblogging app?

One of the criticisms leveled at social media is that everyone is just talking and talking without a whole lot to say. And to some extent that’s been the problem evident since Twitter first took off. How do you find quality content in all the chatter? How do you produce something that will be read and re-read when attention spans have cut to three seconds or less?

We still need reporters

The need for authority figures, and for the reasoned discourse of experts, is just as important now as it was before social media. When everyone retweets hundreds of articles a day, some without having even read them, there’s an obvious lack of informed opinion. Worse, there’s a lack of expertise: a lack of research, reasoning, and intelligent compilation of source material. These duties have been the domain of reporters, journalists and academics. The problem is that most qualified journalists are simply unable to keep up with the deluge of new content available on Twitter every minute. That surge of information isn’t going to stop anytime soon, and won’t be tamed until there are reporting and journalistic tools that can actually keep up with social media.

Writing for the Web: another approach

The most seductive alternative so far has been to go the opposite route: to take one’s time, tell stories through long-form journalism, and wait a couple days or weeks for them to be published. In this way, one’s work is high-quality and high-impact, but fundamentally “out of date”. There’s not been an easy way to link content on the social web together in a curated format, or, if there is, the result has been static instead of living and breathing in real-time. You can blog, sure, but you’re missing out on the real-time aspect of what’s going on “out there”.

Enter Storify

Storify is a brand-new platform for “telling stories” using social media. At its heart Storify is a microblogging platform, like Tumblr. It lets you pull in media from Twitter, Flickr, RSS feeds and more, and to reference and discuss each element in sequence. It’s a quick and simple way to gather up media and produce an article using it.

What Storify is, and what it isn’t

In one sense, Storify is just a glorified (read: prettier) cross-referencing system. But I think there’s a lot more to it than that. What Storify allows—and what no tool before it has really provided—is a way of keeping context on the social web. It allows anyone to pull quotes from Twitter, sure, but it also lets their readers engage with the original content (Reply and Retweet are built in with each reference). It lets you quickly gather curated links— and it tells your readers how many others have looked at them. In a sort of roundabout way, Storify is almost doing for reporting what Flipboard and Pulse did for browsing: giving you the social-media “juice” while retaining the authoritative, “finished” feel of traditional media. And for a lot of writers, bloggers and reporters, it just might be the best way forward.

… or is Storify just another (less customizable) Tumblr? What do you think? Give it a shot, and let me know what you think in the comments!


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