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February 23, 2012

Storify, a new noun


Jon Mitchell reports on Read Write Web that a new iPad app has not only advanced the way stories are published, but also created a noun.

To better explain:

 ”Storify for iPad. That’s a complete sentence. Storify is a noun, yes. It’s a company that makes an app. But it’s also a verb that company invented. To storify is to take a series of discrete moments and thread them into a story.”

If you’re confused, that’s ok.  Even Storify seems mildly unsure of the reach of their project.  Their about page briefly states, “Storify helps its users tell stories by curating social media.”  Well and good.  They also tell us, “[w]e’re based in San Francisco in a newly remodeled loft office in the heart of the city.”

In all seriousness, Storify does seem like it has the potential to significantly alter the way news is told.  The app lets the user curate social media on a given news topic and present it as a timeline or narrative.  The intention is to allow Facebook posts, Tweets, online videos and websites to be organized and contextualized so that they can tell news and stories in one place.  Most importantly, Storify works in a way that allows for rapid developments and interpretation.

Dave Copeland, also on Read Write Web, uses a journalism student’s homework project to further explain the app and its effective use.  His student, Kaitlyn Wallace, intersperses tweeted photos and status updates with short contextualizing passages, to allow the story of a “March Against Hate” at Bridgewater State University to flow.  Via tidbits of social media, she explains the impetus for the event and traces the march up until the concluding rally and resolution for solidarity.  You can see her full story here.

Storify, the web version of which is already embedded on the New York Times and Al Jazeera websites, has shown itself to be an effective means of news delivery.  The Storify of the Year in 2011 went to Josh Stearns, whose page “Tracking Journalist Arrests at Occupy Protests Around the Country”, has been viewed more than 19 438 times.  Stearns used the app’s storytelling function to track arrests at Occupy events, using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube Flickr and Instagram.  To read his Storify is a satisfying and illuminating experience.  It is well curated and moves logically, while allowing the readers to feel as if they were on the ground, involved in events in real time.

Stearns is, however, somewhat of a media professional.  He works for Free Press.  I, for one, am interested to see how much Storify will blur the line between journalists and simply enthusiastic citizen storytellers.  Indeed, Storify is only at the beginning of its online life, and although it is clearly useful, the user will need to be clever to ensure that clarity of storytelling isn’t lost in the deluge.

Still, this is the issue Storify claims to address.  Co-founder and CEO Xavier Damman says, “[n]ow we’re overwhelmed by all this media, so this is the next big step — the curation of all that media that’s out there, extracting the meaning in the noise to tell stories.”


Ariel Bogle is a former publicist at Melville House.