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Storify: Popular curation platform tells stories with social media

by: Susan Mernit |

Curation is one of those buzzwords we all hear about today, but what does it mean exactly? New tools like Pinterest, Storify and Meograph make it easy to pull elements from social networks together to illustrate a theme or tell a story, whether you are a professional journalist or a local activist, a leader or a person with a story to share. 

The most successful creators of Meograph and Storify pages are united by one thing: they’re skilled editors and curators who know how to look at content posted on multiple social networks and pull out the pieces that will best help them to tell a story.

Staci Baird, a journalist who currently is the Internet & Social Media Strategist for the Stanford School of Engineering, says “Aggregating, analyzing, providing context and insight is an important part of journalism today.”

According to Brandy Tuzon Boyd who runs Natomas Buzz,  a hyperlocal news site for West Sacramento, Storify is one of the tools journalsits can use to easily wrangle contributed content and publish stories that involve their communities.

“I remember the first time I used Storify—I covered a blood drive," says Boyd, who’s done 10 Storify pieces since she started in 2010 (see http://storify.com/natomasbuzz). “I used a hashtag and a lot of local Tweets. And it got a large audience.”

Storify users agree that the platform has particular strengths in capturing almost real-time news,reflecting back popular memes-- or themes—and sharing community views on incidents or personalities. For Steve Beatty and his team at The Lens in New Orleans, LA, providing almost real time information about the state budget hearings was a worthy experiment. 

Anne Galloway and the VT Digger team used Storify to capture the movement of Hurricane Sandy into Vermont. In Charlottesville, VA, Brian Wheeler and the team at Cville Tomorrow experimented with Storifying live events, including a two future of cities/urban planning discussions held downtown. Despite a lack of images, more than 1,093 people viewed one of the planning stories; more that 2,900 viewed the other (see News n' Brews: The Evolution of West Main (with images, tweets) · cvilletomorrow · Storify http://bit.ly/Uwb5XU) .

Storify is  good for capturing popular memes as well. CNN, for example, created a Storify tracking reader responses to the discovery that college football star Manti T’eo’s dead girlfriend was not a real person.

The community team at CBC News in Canada has done some excellent curation using Storify around popular memes. Andrew Yates, Andrea Lee-Greenberg,  Lauren O’Neil and John Bpwman are all experienced news producers whose job is to shape and curate community content. One of their best Storifys  is about Psy, the Korean pop star who launched Gangnam Style; see 'Gangnam Style' goes gangbusters: South Korea's catchiest pop export. More than 51,000 people read this story.

Storify is also a terrific way to quickly aggregate breaking news from Twitter and other social media. Al Jazeera got international attention for their Storify of protests in Egypt and of Tunisians’ struggle to keep the reform movement energized. Hyperlocal site The Sacramento Press shared breaking news on a small scale with their Storify Arden Fair back open after teens start huge ruckus in food court (with images, tweets).

How to use Storify
Jon Mitchell did a nice piece on Storify for ReadWrite Web called How To Curate Conversations With Storify. Explaining why he loves this platform, Mitchelle writes: “Storify is the best way to gather tweets, comments, snippets and images from all around the Web and put them into one post. It's a new way of blogging that lets all your Internet friends participate.”

Here are some basic steps to follow if you want to use Storify:
1. Make sure you have accounts for your site or organization on all the major social networks.
If you’re going to experiment with Storify, you want to set yourself up for success.  Since you drop and drag content from social media sites into your Storify, the first thing to do is make sure you have an account and some familiarity with these platforms. Spend some time with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, and Google+ so you are comfortable moving element from these sites into your story.

2. Use hashtags and keywords to find story content
Hashtags and keywords are easiest way to find content to include in your Storify. Make sure to check out current hashtags on Twitter so that you can pull in content linked to current tags. This is especially important if you want to cover a meme like #NBCFail—you wouldn't find anything about that dust-up if you just looked for #NCBOlympics. Also, remember you can search for multiple hashtags and pull that content into the same story.

3. Craft the story
Storify makes it easy to write an opening paragraph and narrative transitions  between the social media elements you pull in.  Make sure to take the time to do this!  Not only will it add some depth to your work, it will provide much needed context for readers coming to your Storify via web search.

Josh Stearn’s Storify tracking reporter arrests at Occupy demonstrations - which was named the Best Storify of 2012 by Storify - has the kind of written narrative and contextualization that brings depth and structure to his topics.  Although his writing is spare after the establishing paragraph, he chimes in between social media samples to keep the narrative structure strong as he posts example after example of journalists arrested during the Occupy demonstrations. If you're looking to use Storify in a thoughtful way, Stearn's work is a strong model.


How to Curate and Create Stories from the Social Web Using Storify | Movements.org http://bit.ly/WwjE2k

Storify has a number of aids and tools to help you get started. Check out the Storify Guided Tour (storify.com/tour) and the video Welcome To Storify - YouTube http://bit.ly/RdXRsJ for some useful tips.

Storify year in review - 2012 (with images, tweets) · storify · Storify http://bit.ly/14oySfh

This blog is made possible by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Susan Mernit

Susan Mernit is editor & publisher of Oakland Local a news & community hub for Oakland, CA focused on social justice
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