Curation is one of the buzzwords surrounding the online future of news. It’s been hailed as the ‘new journalism’, but I don’t think that’s right. It will not replace journalism, it’s simply another communication tool in the online jounalist’s box. Storify.com is a brand new curation tool makes it simple to create, curate and embed stories in any web page.
I’ve been waiting for storify.com for months. I first heard about it via Robert Scoble (@scobleizer) in an obscure tweet what seems like an age ago. The service moved into beta at TechCrunch Disrupt and I finally got a chance to explore what Burt Herman (@burtherman) and the team had created.
At its core, storify.com allows users to collect web pages, tweets, Facebook status updates, Flickr images and YouTube videos into a handy container. Each of these individual items can be annotated by the user, building up a story. The backend has a search engine and a simple drag-and drop interface, allowing the creation of the story in a vertical, top-to-bottom format. There’s also a handy bookmarklet to add and comment on web pages as you browse, though everything can be edited at storify.com.
Once you’ve got your story saved there’s a handy option to tweet the people you’ve quoted to let them know about your story.
@Storify stories are hosted on its website but they can also be embedded in any web page and the embed looks very, very good. To make it easy to distribute the story, the embed includes Facebook Like, Tweet and email buttons and a button to let the reader embed the story on their site.
I think that stories are what this tool is all about. Other services allow the collection of updates but @storify is focused on the story. It’s an alternative way to narrate current or past events, giving the user a means to “quote” the web.
The concept is very similar to Mark Little’s storyful.com idea, although I don’t think he has plans to allow users to embed @storyful stories on their own web pages, and the functionality of storyful.com appears to be much wider.
It sounds much more complex than it actually is. Heres a video (and there’s a sample @storify story at the end of this article):
So, is it any good?
In a word, yes. For all the reasons I’ve outlined and more.
It has many issues: There’s no option to add new story elements at the top by default (useful for ‘live’ curation of breaking news and for long-running stories) but this could be seen as an advantage [UPDATE The good folks at @Storify just tweeted to to say you can quickly add elements to the top of a story by double-clicking on them, shift-double click to add to the bottom]; the number of tweets/Facebook status updates available in the search is limited; there’s no way to use the bookmarklet to add individual updates from the Facebook website; changing the order of individual elements in a long story can be awkward, particularly on a small monitor.
But, it’s brand new and it’s still in beta. There’s plenty of time for the developers to iron out details and improve the service by listening to beta testers like me. I think it’s one of the first in a new range of curation tools that we’ll see more and more of (curated.by is another example that I’ve started to use here, review here), unless the CMS giants or bedroom coders add the functionality directly into WordPress, Joomla or Drupal.
Storify.com is one of the best of the story curation tools I’ve had access to so far. It opens up a huge number of possibilities for the creative online journalist or blogger. Try the beta for yourself and send them your feedback. The more information startups like these can get about their creations the better they can make them.
Hopefully by listening to users and steadily improving their product, @Storify will grow and mature into an important online tool for journalism.