10 ways journalists can use Storify

When Storify appeared on the collective journalism screen a few weeks back at TechCrunch Disrupt, it inspired a lot of oohs, ahhs and speculation as to how it would work for journalists.

There are similar curation tools out there, like KeepStream and Curated.by, though they focus primarily on collecting tweets (Correction: KeepStream also allows for Facebook integration). Storify, on the other hand, allows a user to organize various media (text, documents, video, images) and social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) into an orderly, linear presentation. The story pieces retain all of their original links and functionality – and the full presentations are embeddable on any site.  It has a very easy-to-use search for social media keywords and works using a drag-and-drop functionality. In other words – it’s easy multimedia for even the most technologically challenged journalist.

It has a couple of downfalls, the biggest of which, to me, is the lack of hard timestamps on content from Twitter (though that’s largely Twitter’s fault).

In the weeks since the Nieman Lab actually used Storify to explain Storify, many journalists and bloggers have taken the opportunity to experiment with the tool – with incredibly varied results. Here’s a few interpretations of just how Storify has been and can be used in journalism.

1. Organizing reaction in social media. The Washington Post gathered reaction from Twitter and Facebook to the resignation of Washington D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee last week. While there are a lot of tools once could use to do this (Quote URL, Twitter search, Cover it Live), the Storify approach looks very clean and was likely very fast to put together. It’s a great tool for on-the-fly curation from various social media sources.

2. Giving back-story using past content. PBS NewsHour had a different take on Rhee’s resignation. Going beyond the basic topic archive page, their piece created a summary of Rhee’s past challenges with DCPS, weaving in stories, videos and scripts from their archives with some curated social media reactions. It is similar to a traditional story in its scope, giving the full background on Rhee’s tenure with reaction quotes via social media.

3. Curating topical content. NYU Studio 20’s East Village used Storify and a very sharp web presentation to create SocialDiningNYC, a site that has collect and curated information on NYC restaurants. Each venue has it’s own Storify line collecting reviews, reactions, media and info – and each file is linked from a primary hub site. The key to making this look nice was the consistency with which each Storify file was built and worded.

4. Displaying a non-linear social media discussion or chat. Penn Professor and Wired blogger Tim Carmody used Storify to illustrate an amusing Twitter quest he took on to get a few key social media contacts to follow him. He pulled together the entire back-and-forth between him, the people he was trying to engage and his current followers. It looks a lot better than TweetSpat (and involves more characters) and it makes the conversation seem more linear than it likely did in real time. This is a fun idea – and it could be great for archiving Twitter chats into some modicum of sense.

5. Creating a multimedia/social media narrative. Last Friday, I used Storify at TBD to make sense of an ever-changing series of events involving a death outside popular Washington D.C. nightclub DC9. In the course of one day, the story took a lot of twists and turns, illustrated in the narrative by tweets (from both news orgs and those reacting), photos, video and documents. Reading down the story, you can get a feel for how the events developed and evolved in a way that’s not entirely dissimilar to more traditional narrative stories. I talked a little bit more about the story behind this piece to the Nieman Storyboard, if you want to know more.

6. Organize your live tweets into a story: Michael Margolis of GetStoried used Storify to tell the story of his time spent at the National Storytelling Festival. He weaves in quotes and experiences from the scene as tweets from throughout the day. I could see this as being very useful for reporters who live tweet press conferences, government meetings and events. Using this method, those reporters could focus on Twitter in real-time, then build a story from those tweets (and others’) when the event is over.

7. Collaborate on a topic with readers. Seamus Condron of ReadWriteWeb tested out Storify with RWW’s Twitter followers. He posed the question “My day would be a lot easier if Twitter…”. The story builds out from there with responses to the prompt from followers, @RWW replies and contextual info from other media in response to reader contributions.

These are likely just the beginning of what’s been done or could be done using Storify. I have dreamed up a few more ideas if you’d like to think about using this tool on your site.

8. Create a timeline of events. I know from experience that it can be a big pain to build an attractive online timeline without the aid of a designer. I think Storify’s interface would be a quick way to pull in text and other content into a timeline format that could look nice without any fancy HTML.

9. Display audience content from across platforms. Say you’re asking your readers to give you photos, videos and reactions based around an event or topic. You put out this call on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and on your site. Instead of gathering all of this content and re-publishing it on-site, you can organize all of those updates, comments, Flickr photos, YouTube videos, Twitpics and emailed-in multimedia into one Storify file without any CMS nonsense.

10. Live curate live tweets from the stream. If you have multiple reporters or sources live-tweeting a news event, pull them together quickly and in an order that makes sense in Storify. Sure, you could pull all of their tweets or use a hashtag using other means, but this way you could choose to select only some tweets – and it wouldn’t matter who used a hashtag or not, as you can search for tweets via keyword.