Storyful is a news site, a community for curators that I’ve been following since its inception. It tells stories and breaks news in a very different way to most other news websites, curating content from various sources in a simple interface. This ‘community’ idea sets it apart from other curation systems, which are essentially just toolsets. It offers the hope that your story may be picked from the community site and ‘promoted’ to their full news site, giving curators a chance to be heard by a much wider audience.
Storyful has also partnered with YouTube to curate video from the protests in the Arab world and the disaster in Japan. The company also works as a news agency, providing alerts to news professionals worldwide, a useful revenue stream for the emerging company.
So how does it work?
If you’ve used @Storify (read my impressions here) the new Storyful tools will be very familiar. There’s a similar simple drag-and-drop functionality for adding content to a story from Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Google and RSS. There is also the ability to embed content from other sources and add links, but I have to say I struggled to make these work properly.
The curated items can be commented on inline to tell the story.
Storyful’s Twitter functionality is the richest. You can view your timeline, @ mentions, retweets, searches and lists, but, for me, there is one fairly serious omission – favourites.
I use my Twitter favourites to curate on the fly. I store tweets I want to come back to later, or, if I’m using my iPhone, links that I’d prefer to read on my laptop. I’d favourited every tweet in my Storyful story but had to search for them all again, a very time-consuming process considering the number of retweets each had had. In fact, there were probably another 10 or 15 tweets discussing the story that I wanted to add but I just didn’t have the time to search for them. UPDATE @DermotCasey, Storyful’s COO has told me that this (much-requested) feature has been planned for the very near future.
I also regularly use @Instapaper to keep longer-form articles to read later. Integration with this service would be a huge bonus. In fact, I can think of a few other curation tools that I use that could improve Storyful’s toolset, but it is early days for the site.
One unique and interesting tool in the Storyful box is the ability to add sections to a story. This can help with context or let you wander off at a tangent or just simply break the story into manageable chunks.
Problems with version 1
In general I found the backend fairly intuitive to use, but then I’ve been using curation tools like Curated.by and Storify since they launched. I still feel the average user should be able to use them with very little help, but a ‘how-to’ screencast video would be a very welcome addition.
There were some issues however.
I found it very awkward to reorder curated story elements, getting frustrated quickly when I had to repeat the process several times to make the system realise what I wanted it to do.
The biggest issue I found was with adding text to curated story elements, the most important storytelling component. This was very challenging problem, one that saw me swear repeatedly at the computer. We have all been used to moving the cursor to the point at which we want to make a correction since the Graphical User Interface was invented. I found that if you clicked within a text box to make a correction all the text was lost, a very unnatural user experience. @DermotCasey and the team fixed the problem within an hour of me pointing it out.
I’m left feeling that the Storyful Community site was a little rushed, a working but unpolished iteration of what I feel will become a popular and developing community. I wonder if that speed was anything to do with @marklittlenews’s trip to SXSW with Enterprise Ireland?
I hope I’m right and that Storyful quickly develops its tools, making them as shiny as Storify. It would be great to see the addition of other services like Facebook, Vimeo and Audioboo, incorporating more simple ways to add content. I wonder if it will offer embedding of stories in other sites in the future?
Taking everything into account, Storyful is a great Irish site with a vision of how news could be reported in the future. I hope that vision becomes reality.