Everyman in the Social Narrative

Lisa Park   July 26, 2011
Has the face of journalism changed forever? (Image via Roscura Ochoa)

The July 20th Hacks/Hackers meetup put the spotlight on the latest web platforms, built using YouTube’s API, that focus on delivering breaking news via social and video. The meeting is a timely one considering recent events around the world—YouTube’s News Manager Olivia Ma referenced the Arab Spring as a prime example in which the everyman became the reporter, being the first to alert the world via all manner of online social media to what exactly was going on in that region.

Even more recent headlines touch on this very topic: A Norwegian National Tragedy That Unfolded On the Web and How to: Follow the Norway Terror Attacks Online. In the latter Mashable write-up, Storyful and Storify—both of which use YouTube’s API and were featured at the Hacks/Hackers event—are included as “key ways for people around the world to send out and receive information.” The Mashable writer goes on to add that “online news reports were delivering the news faster than television.”

In comparing Storyful and Storify reports on the tragic events in Norway, Storyful’s does a better job of demonstrating how seasoned editorial and the average wo/man on the street with just a smartphone and/or internet access can team up to deliver the—often raw—news, almost as soon as it’s happening, and in a powerful and comprehensive social narrative.

It may be that Storify, still in beta, just needs a bit more finetuning—or that it needs to get a better handle on curation. Because what’s clear is that professional curation of the raw content (amateur video, tweets, blog posts, photos, etc.) is still a vital component in making the story one that’s impactful, engaging and accurate.

During the meetup’s Q&A session, a hack expressed his concern that giving the power to the people would put journalists out of a job. The presenters disagreed, insisting that curation is still a necessary component and in fact what these tools do is change the landscape for the better—giving voice to the larger community and therefore, enriching the narrative by leaps and bounds.

Their argument has legs. After all, we’re already witnessing the groundswell around this type of social narrative. And so, as long as content strategists like us learn about and adapt to what’s relevant to our practice, whether it’s in the social realm or elsewhere, we’ll continue to have clients clamoring for our specific skillset and expertise.

Here’s a quick rundown of the featured developer partners using YouTube’s API, along with excerpts of their About Us spiels:

  • Storyful was founded by journalists to discover the smartest conversations about world events and raise up the authentic voices on the big stories. … Sometimes our sources are local journalists, amateur photographers, or filmmakers. But often the people with the best view of the action are citizens in the right place at the right time.
  • Storify is a way to tell stories using social media such as Tweets, photos and videos. You search multiple social networks from one place, and then drag individual elements into your story. You can re-order the elements and also add text to give context to your readers.
  • Shortformis a new social entertainment medium, delivering endless channels of short videos, curated by our community of video DJs (VJs).
  • GoAnimate is founded to provide an outlet for everyone’s creativities and ideas. With GoAnimate, you can customize your videos with a large number of features that allow you to create unique works of expression.
  • Link News is your connection to unique news videos from around the world. From breaking news to stories you haven’t seen elsewhere, our vision is to offer video as an entry point to seeing the world from different points of view.
  • YouTube Direct allows you to embed the upload functionality of YouTube, enabling your organization to request, review, and re-broadcast user-submitted videos with ease. News organizations can ask for citizen reporting; nonprofits can call-out for support videos around social campaigns; businesses can ask users to submit promotional videos about your brand.


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