Disney Interactive launches storytelling app Story for iOS

Disney Interactive today launched Story for iOS, a storytelling app that accesses a user’s camera roll of photos and videos on their mobile device and automatically organizes their media into stories, which can be personalized, saved and shared.

Disney senior director of engineering Scott Gerlach told Inside Mobile Apps that “We realized that parents were collecting media on their phones at a rate even greater than the typical smartphone user. They were drowning in this sea of personal media and feeling pressure from their family and friends to share that.”

Gerlach, who works for Disney’s parent-oriented group called Women and Family, explains that although Story is geared toward moms and parents, the app is for everyone.

Story is broken up into two sections — Moments and Stories. Moments are pieces of media from a user’s camera roll that is automatically pulled together based on a piece of media’s time stamp and location tag by Disney’s proprietary algorithm. The developers classified a moment as something that can’t span more than a calendar day, and no piece of media in a series collected within that time span can have a gap of more than a certain amount of time or distance. Once a moment is collected, a user can turn it into a story. Users can drag and drop media around, edit a title, add captions, and give their story a theme, which consists of fonts, colors, backgrounds and photo treatments. Gerlach says Disney will later allow users to add vocal annotations, music and other forms of media, to their stories.

“One thing that’s different about our mission than many of the other photo and video apps out there is that we’re all about the story, narrative and connection between the media elements,” Gerlach says.

Gerlach says Disney’s media offerings have always been one-way. He adds that it wasn’t until Disney acquired parent blogging network Babble when the corporation moved the conversation away from just Disney as a broadcaster to conversations about Disney and other conversations in a Disney environment about anything.

“Story is part of that effort to open up Disney to more user-generated content and begin to give guests the tools for storytelling that have been so empowering to those of us who work for the company,” he says. “We’re all there to be creative and extend that Disney story. Now we’re giving our guest the tools to be able to create their own characters.”

Although there’s opportunities to monetize the app, such as selling additional themes as in-app purchases, Gerlach says the app will remain free for now.

“We’re focused for the moment on reach and engagement,” he says. “We’re not too hung up on specific monetary goals. We haven’t settled on exactly what that revenue strategy is.”

One thing that’s noticeable from the beginning is the little amount of Disney branding, which was a conscious decision by the developers. The one piece of Disney branding in the app is one theme called Mickey, which features Disney characters.

“When you find the app in the app store, it’s Story,” Gerlach says. “It’s not Disney Story or Story by Disney.”

For now, stories can be shared via email or Facebook, with support for Pinterest, Twitter, SMS, MMS and more in the future. But what is shared through email and Facebook is just a link with a thumbnail and description of a story to the actual content on the Story.us site, which is an HTML5 canvas application under the hood. Stories can also be embedded on a site or blog. Users can share an unlimited amount of stories, but moments are limited 20 images and two videos, which can be up to one minute each in length. Stories are also saved in the app and backed up in the cloud via iCloud.

“Web was the most important viewing channel because even grandma with her ancient Windows PC and [Internet Explorer] 6 can come and have a reasonable experience with Story,” Gerlach says.

On the safety front, Disney is moderating some content. Every piece of video gets checked against a copyright fingerprint service, and if a video gets flagged, a human moderator will see it within 24 hours and make the decision to take down a video or not if it infringes any copyrights. Also, every page on the Story site has a flag button that users can click to mark content as inappropriate.

Story is available now for free on the Apple App Store for iPhone and iPod Touch.

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