Getting something done early isn’t always the best idea when it comes to journalism. I worked a night desk for a number of years at a couple newspapers and I’ve had to perform triage surgery on more than a few stories and layouts because “breaking news” emerged, events fell through or entire stories changed. Once I got into academia, I thought I would be able to leave my “baling wire and duct tape” approach to fixing things behind, but that hasn’t been the case when it comes to writing textbooks that focus on an ever-changing field.
Case in point, I bragged to my editor that I had updated the entire social media chapter in my media-writing book, fixed the Twitter references to include the new character limits and infused a number of key tools that were popular among reporters. And I was done two months early, to boot.
Her response was, “Wait, did you read about how Storify is no more? Do you want to take a second pass through (the chapter)?”
Less than a week after I was singing its praises, Storify got killed. Adobe, the tool’s owner, stated it would no longer allow for new people to sign up for Storify accounts and by 2018, pretty much everything “Storify-related” would be gone. I thought I was basically “so 26 seconds ago” about a tool that nobody used.
(This feeling went away when I told a hip high school journalism teacher about the news and she said, “I just learned how to use this thing and now it’s going away?”)
The truth is Storify is going away because a) it didn’t make money (biggest reason) and b) the tool itself lost value when we no longer needed it. It’s the same reason people aren’t making a ton of money in the phone-cord detangler industry or as door-to-door salesmen anymore.
The folks at Niemanlab interviewed Storify co-founder Xavier Damman about the death of his creation earlier this month. He noted that it would be great if Storify could continue in an open-source format, but the bigger takeaway was how Storify changed how journalists told stories:
Damman hopes that endures as Storify’s legacy: “When we started there was no Twitter embed and no Instagram embed or Facebook embed. The idea of using the content that people post as raw material was novel,” he said. “[Today], it’s more important than ever that we have journalists that actually go and tell stories using what people post on social media.”
Damman’s point (and the one I’m trying to make here) is that the “Storify approach” to journalism lives on, even as the tool itself is becoming obsolete. Blogging sites like this one allow writers to embed photos from various spots, include tweets in their original format and more as part of a post. Major news outlets have drawn content from a variety of social media platforms to tell breaking news stories and augment their own coverage of bigger topics. They mix and match posts, tweets and images through a series of embedding and sharing options to let their readers see a well-rounded story. All of that will continue without Storify itself.
What will also remain are the underlying skills associated with storytelling in a journalistic format. What Storify allowed users to do was make choices and present content in a way they previously couldn’t so that the users could do the best job possible when informing their readers. If the users were lousy at storytelling, content selection or any other “journalism” skills, the tool itself couldn’t make the story any better. However, having the skills and applying them through tools like Storify seriously enhanced the content the audience received. For those users who applied their skills in storytelling via the “Storify approach,” the death of the tool won’t matter.