Let me tell you a little secret about the way online journalism works: Most news sites, GigaOM included, have a repertoire of just a few types of stories. There’s the short news story, the long thought piece, and the hands-on review, complete with a video featuring lots of close-ups. Attempts to tell stories in new ways are rare – that’s why I was pretty excited when I first heard about Soo Meta, back when it was still in private alpha last October.
Soo Meta is the latest product of the Budapest-based online video startup Dragontape, which has also developed a video curation app called Dragontape. After months of testing, the company is now ready to unveil Soo Meta as a new platform for online video storytelling.
Here’s how Soo Meta works: The platform offers content producers and curators an easy way to mix videos with still images, text, links, music, polls and even RSS feeds. The results look like video slideshows, and can range from simple annotations to complex remixes. Take a look below for an example:
There are a few things that I find especially intriguing about Soo Meta: Each story doesn’t just consist of a video, but also a Storify-like story line. Users can either click play to watch the video, or scroll down and browse through the quotes, photos and other elements that make up the story.
The other interesting aspect about Soo Meta is how easy it is to gather media for your video stories. There is a bookmarklet that lets you grab images, videos and quotes from any website. Alternatively, users can manually add Urls to the content they want to use, or even upload their own images to the service. These different elements can then be organized on a timeline, mixed together and annotated.
Playing with Soo Meta is definitely fun, but I also found it challenging to actually decide on the stories I wanted to tell. Thinking out of the box ain’t easy. Still, I could see this become a great tool for online journalists who want to use video in novel ways, or even just annotate third-party videos and put them into context. Even a Storify-like approach of curation of third-party quotes could work great. For example, why not mix highlights of Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal with quotes from journalists who covered the event?
I could also see annotated and visualized podcasts being a big use case, but the makers of Soo Meta have another idea in mind: The company is betting that a combination of online video and polls will bring in whole new audiences. Dragontape co-founder and CEO Tamás Szakál told me that the inspiration for this feature came from teachers using the service. “For them its a really cool way to give more engaging assignments to students,” Szakál said.
He added that it would also be great for bloggers to engage with their audience, and get measurable feedback through analytics. For this, Szakál argued, people will pay. Soo Meta’s freemium model offers advanced polling features and analytics for a monthly fee. Paying users will also get an option to edit stories collaboratively, and share them privately within groups or companies.
So what’s next for Soo Meta? Szakál said that his team of three wants to improve the mobile experience, and strike partnerships to integrate the platform with tools and sites for educators and others. A WordPress plugin is already available, and a full-blown mobile editor is already in the pipeline as well.
An integration into smart TVs is also a possibility. But for now, the company wants to concentrate on perfecting the tools for creators to get people to use it – and hopefully inspire new types of stories. “The goal is of course to make Soo Meta the platform for digital storytelling that makes it a lot easier and faster for teachers, bloggers and journalists to create more engaging experiences,” said Szakál.