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Summary:

The explosion of real-time information through social networks like Twitter and Facebook has created an opportunity for “curation” tools such as Storify, which just launched as a public beta. These kinds of tools allow anyone to perform the same kind of function traditionally reserved for journalists.

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The explosion of real-time information through social networks and information services like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube has produced a never-ending firehose of content. It has also created an opportunity for tools such as Storify, the curation service that launched as an open beta Monday. Although the aggregation and filtering of the news is something that has traditionally been done by journalists and major media brands, tools like Storify allow anyone to perform the same kind of function, regardless of whether she’s been trained as a journalist — or even think of what she’s doing as journalism.

Storify is a relatively simple-looking tool that allows a user to pull in content from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and other social-media services and create a kind of story stream. As I described in a post after the company’s launch as an invitation-only beta last fall, former Associated Press foreign correspondent Burt Herman started the service after thinking about how journalists could use social media during a Knight fellowship (a video interview with Herman is embedded below). I’ve used Storify and it definitely makes social-media curation fast and relatively simple.

There are other, similar services that also pull in Twitter feeds and allow users to create a kind of ongoing story about an event: Storyful is one of them, and Keepstream is another. Storify recently closed a $2-million Series A funding round with legendary Sand Hill Road firm Khosla Ventures, and Herman says Storify collections have been viewed more than 13 million times.

What Storify and similar tools do goes by a number of different name. Some call it “aggregation,” which is a somewhat mechanical-sounding term, and best describes the more automated approach taken by companies like Google with Google News. It’s also a term traditional media sources often use disparagingly when talking about new media, as New York Times  Executive Editor Bill Keller has when discussing The Huffington Post . Others prefer to call it “curation,” which implies a human being filtering and selecting the best of something and then pulling it together into some kind of coherent whole.

This is the term that many use to describe what Andy Carvin of National Public Radio has been doing with Twitter in the wake of the revolution in Egypt and popular uprisings in Libya. While he doesn’t actually report the news — since he’s thousands of miles away in an office in Washington, D.C. — Carvin selects, verifies and re-distributes the news from hundreds of different Twitter streams he monitors of people who are actually on the ground or have knowledge of what is occurring there. It’s a little like what a news anchor does on television, but with many different sources.

There are other examples as well. This week sees the publication of a book called Quakebook, which is a collection of memories and reactions related to the earthquakes in Japan and the aftermath of that disaster. All the responses were collected through Twitter, and became first an e-book and now a printed version.

We Need Curation More Than Ever

The rise of real-time information sources such as Twitter has produced such an unstoppable wave of content that we need curation and filtering more than we ever have before. And while that used to be something that only traditional media sources did, now it’s something anyone can do, regardless of whether they went to journalism school or work at a name-brand media outlet like the New York Times.

This is part of the reason why Bill Keller and others have reacted so strongly to what The Huffington Post and other digital media outlets do; it represents competition for them as the gatekeepers of information and the trusted oracles of what is important. And that poses a threat not just to their role in the media ecosystem, but to their financial status as well. Is Storify going to do this all by itself? No. But it is part of a much broader trend that is likely to become an even bigger part of the future of media.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Ed Kohler

  1. Great piece. Data curating represents an opportunity for all: innovative platforms and portals, professionals, amateurs, developers, and so on. As the floodgates of content continue to open, the value of trustworthy advice will continue to increase.

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    1. Thanks, Jack — I agree. Appreciate the comment.

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  2. Totally agreed about “some call it aggregation…”, whereas others call it curation. I like to call it “re-publishing” because that’s the goal. Curation and aggregation are just means to an end, right?

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  3. As william Mougayar said, curation is indeed just a means to an end. This end being a better understanding of something. It may be an event but it can also be other types of information that cannot be presented in a linear fashion. Therefore, a curation tool has to accomplish three main things. It has to be the scissor that cuts the photo, video, text or tweet from the webpage. Is has to be the board that arranges those clips in a way that can better express the meaning of that information. And it has of course to be able to show that board to the world. I’m metaphorical here because we have been doing this forever in the offline world with newspapers, this is the time we start doing it on the web.

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  4. It’s no brainer to see that social media is here to stay for good. Given vast variety of the existing channels to choose and stick with, it’s time for such a hot space to enter into a new category. There is a need for a portal to provide a quick and intelligent decision for both the consumer and the enterprise about their online connections.

    A Platform to Help us to Distinguish Our Quality vs. Quantity Friends, Fans, Followers, and Companies

    Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Flickr and others have been doing a decent job of providing additional marketing exposure and even in some cases, additional revenue. However, as more and more social networking sites pop up, how do you manage your brand across all these channels? Maybe more importantly, which one of these sites should you select as the one that will help you best reach your target audience? The proliferation of the social media avenues is becoming overwhelming.

    This glut of information reminds me of the early 90’s when WWW was adopted broadly by the general public. Every company rushed to have a presence, to the point it became literally impossible to find the right information on the Web. That’s when a better generation of search engines – at first the Yahoo! and then Google – entered the market and helped us find the most relevant information by just typing simple keywords in their search box. If you had asked before Google launched, if there was a need for another search engine – most would have said no, we already have those….

    Then came Web 1.0 & 2.0 – Youtube, Flickr, myspace, Facebook, Twitter and countless others have turned everyday people into content producers, influencers and experts. We basically tripled down on the information overload How do you know which channels to select for deploying your social media strategy? How do you know which one is the right channel to let your fans and followers to find you, your products, and services? Most importantly, who is Joe Smith that is recommending that person, that company, that product?

    I hope my awesomize.me can accomplish such a mission. The site is not another social networking platform. Yet the portal to all your existing social media channels. The platform helps you, your fans, your potential clients to make an intelligent decision as to which company to connect to or follow via which social media channels and why? It’s free!

    Elias
    CEO & Founder
    http://awesomize.me

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  5. One of these days you cut and paste frauds are going to realize the hard way is: nobody cares about the “cover band.” they care about the producers of the original content. That always wins out. You are just cover bands, nothing more.

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    1. Manging context is not a cut and past job. News Papers have columnist, reporters and Editors. Curation is an editorial activity. News Curation Example – http://bit.ly/jZFoF6

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  6. I for one am waiting for curation with context so it’s not just another stream of news but something that sorts as well as makes sense out of all of this information. Too bad the msm organizations haven’t jumped on this yet, especially print pubs like Time and Newsweek which have flirted with this off and on (lamely admittedly) for the past few years.

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    1. Exactly! Precisely why I think Twitter sucks and will die. I agree with you 100%. Bloggers have been doing this for ages.

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  7. How is this concept different to bloggers posting links and giving opinion a la Daring Fireball?

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  8. Twitter is probably most in need of curating…information of value is buried in an endless flood of noise.

    Chirpstory.com provides a good solution. It specializes in creating stories out of Tweets through an intuitive drag and drop interface. Its sister site, Togetter, is Japan’s largest curation service with over 2 million users.

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  9. You should look at Bundlr http://gobundlr.com/

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