Storify: The Pros and Cons

In the last couple of weeks, there’s been a lot of buzz about Storify, a new social media curation tool aimed at professional and citizen journalists that moved into the public beta testing phase on April 25. Some, such as Matthew Ingram, have even gone as far as to call it “the future of media.” We even covered Storify back in November, but is it too good to be true?

The site allows you to pick a topic and then search for related news articles, Tweets, Facebook comments, Flickr photos and drag and drop them into an embeddable multimedia story.

“We have so many real-time streams now, we’re all drowning,” Storify founder Burt Herman told the New York Times. “So the idea of Storify is to pick out the most important pieces, amplify them and give them context.”

The site’s stories have been viewed more than 13 million times since its private launch in September 2010, according to Storify’s website. Sounds great but is this new platform worth all the hype?

The Pros
Let’s start with the pros. First and foremost, Storify keeps the metadata of the items you’ve embedded in your story. Attribution won’t get lost and you can feel safer about using someone else’s content.

Storify also makes it simple for journalists to aggregate and re-distribute news, with pictures and comments from citizen journalists. Case in point: Andy Carvin, an NPR journalist who was invited to test out the Storify. He used it to cover Rep. Gabrielle Giffords shooting and the uprisings in the Middle East. In neither case was he present for the events, but he was able to quickly and effectively spread news about them.

Storify is also embeddable and relatively easy to use, in that it is easy to do searches and drop and drag Tweets or photos into the story. More on that in the cons section.

Lastly, Storify is free and so far, there are no banner ads. And in this market, who doesn’t like free?

The Cons
My main gripe with Storify is that it’s confusing. I consider myself fairly tech-savvy and yet I had a pretty big learning curve. It’s definitely not a tool you can just log into and use automatically. It helps to look at other examples, which, thankfully, the site lists on its homepage. Searching and moving items into the feed aren’t hard, but it is difficult to figure out how exactly everything comes together. When do you write the text of your story versus putting in a Tweet or video? Can the story just be other people’s words or should your own be included?

As with all aggregators, it is also still time consuming to go through the different social media applications and find the nuggets you want to use. Fact checking also takes a back seat in Storify. Just because you are using someone’s Facebook or Twitter feed, don’t take it for granted that what they are saying is true. You still have to check. (Andy Carvin actually did a good job of this, ironically using Storify.)

Ultimately, while using Storify, one word kept on popping into my head: Why? Why was I using this instead of going out and finding real people to interview? That’s still what journalism is about — telling the stories of real people and what matters to them.

I’m still keeping an open mind about Storify and want to continue using it. There is, however, still room in this market and I look forward to seeing what else comes up. Have you used Storify? What did you think?