Storify Wants to Pull Stories From the Stream

Of the companies that presented at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference, one of the more interesting ones to me was Storify, one of a number of “curation” services that are trying to make it easier for bloggers or journalists to pull together real-time news from Twitter and other networks and make them into a coherent narrative. Whether the ability to do this can become a compelling business proposition remains to be seen, but anyone who’s tried to quickly gather information about a news event from social-media sources — even just out of personal interest — is likely to see the potential of the service. It’s a little light on features, but it is still in beta mode.

Co-founder Burt Herman worked for the Associated Press as a foreign correspondent for 12 years, reporting from Berlin, Moscow, Kazakhstan and Iraq before accepting a Knight Fellowship in journalism at Stanford University last year, during which he thought about the future of media. Among other things, he says he thought about the ongoing evolution of what journalists do, which is to aggregate and filter reports about events and then build those into a coherent narrative. That sounded a lot like what people were trying to do with the real-time web — that is, to “curate” it and make sense of it — so Herman and his co-founder Xavier Damman decided to build a tool that would make that easier to do, and that became Storify. As he told me in an interview on Tuesday:

We’re coming at it from the point of view of story-telling — it’s about creating a really rich experience about an event. There are all of these real-time updates, so many that we are drowning in them. This is about finding relevance in the noise.

Storify is one of a number of curation-focused services, including and Keepstream, although both of those services focus primarily on collecting and aggregating Twitter messages, while Herman says the intent of Storify is to pull from a number of different social networks and sites to help create a much broader narrative rather than just a series of tweets about a topic. Other services that provide similar types of features for journalists include live-blogging tools Cover It Live and ScribbleLive. Herman said that the company is bootstrap-financed for now, but is looking for potential investors.

Storify uses APIs to pull in real-time data from Twitter, Facebook, Flickr (s yhoo), YouTube (s goog) and other social networks and services, and allows bloggers or anyone else to filter by keyword and then simply drag and drop the content from those services into a story template. So, for example, a journalist or blogger could pull in selected tweets about the pipeline explosion near San Francisco recently, and then pull photos from Flickr and videos from YouTube and build a story around them quickly. But can’t bloggers do this already? After all, they can easily take screenshots of Twitter and paste them into a post, or pull Flickr photos, etc. as well.

[inline-pro-content] One of the interesting things about Storify’s service, however, is that when tweets or photos or any other content are dragged into the story template, they retain all of their features and interactivity, along with all of the surrounding metadata that comes along with them (location, profile info, links etc.). The tweets that are embedded in a Storify template have user names that can be hovered over for more information or clicked on to go to a Twitter profile, and any links in them are also clickable. Any photos or videos have all the related data and links as well, along with attribution that shows where they came from and who originally uploaded them.

In order to maintain all these links and interactivity, the final story or content that users create actually lives on Storify’s servers, but is embeddable on any site via JavaScript. The service provides a full API so that other sites or third-party services can extract the information and display it in any way they wish. For example, TV stations could take the exact same information and easily display it as a slideshow of tweets and photos rather than in a traditional text story format, Herman says. The Storify founder said he’s been talking with a number of traditional media companies about making use of the tool, and is planning to possibly offer premium accounts with enhanced features.

Embedded below is a short video interview I did with Herman at Disrupt.


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Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Rachel the Cat