January 11, 2018

Once journalists figured out social media's value to their reporting, it was hard to get them to stop using it. We wrote stories about singular tweets (and still do) and tracked down reactions to major news events on Facebook.

When Storify launched to the public in 2011, our articles became inundated with even more social media posts. But now, with Storify's impending closure, we're facing major questions about what to do when a popular tool shuts down as well as our relationship with social media embeds in 2018. 

Hare: Happy 2018, Ren! What are we learning about today?

LaForme: Let’s start the year by addressing some sad news from the end of 2017. In mid-December, we learned that Storify, once one of the darling digital tools for journalists, was shutting down its main Storify software. Existing users can still make them until May 1, but all Storifys will stop existing in mid-May this year. Poof. Gone.

I’m sure you’ve made a Storify or two in your day, right?

Hare: Yeah, it was a great tool when I first started at Poynter and there are some fun ones out there about the AP’s over/more than bombshell and journalism culture pieces. But it looks like I haven’t made a Storify for about two years, and I’m guessing a lot of other people haven’t either. Which is likely why they’re shutting down, right?

LaForme: That’s my bet. At least part of the reason. I guess before we go any further, we should explain what it did, right?

Storify is basically a tool to search for posts from a variety of social networks and add them to a little story. You can then embed that story on your website or link directly to it from somewhere else.

As an example, I think the last one I worked on was about the Pulitzer Prizes two or three years ago. Maybe more? I helped to gather reactions from the journalists and organizations who won from Facebook and Twitter and embedded the Storify in our overall coverage of the Pulitzers that year. It was a lot of fun.

But you’re right, it’s been a while. And I think that’s because it has become so much easier to natively embed social posts. We forget that there wasn’t always a one-click button to embed posts back in the day. I think we also know and care a lot more about page load times now. Remember how long it would take long Storifys to load?

Hare: I do. So here’s to something that worked well until it didn’t anymore. But what now? Is there any way to save them?

LaForme: I’ll cheers to that! Yes, let’s talk about how to save the Storifys you already have, then let’s talk about some alternative ideas to using a Storify.

The easiest way to save an old Storify is to use the “export to HTML” feature that Storify has built in. They’ve provided some handy directions for doing this on their FAQ about the closing. I suspect that most CMSes will allow you to take that HTML and plop it in where the old Storify embed was and it’ll be roughly the same. You might need to tinker with it some to work.

Failing that, you could open that HTML export via a browser and save it as a PDF and embed that in place of the old Storify. It’s inelegant, but at least it preserves some of that info. It looks like Storify Business users can export directly to a PDF.

If, for whatever reason, it’s important to you that you have the original social posts embedded and not some PDF facsimile version, you’re gonna have to open that Storify, click through to all of the tweets or whatever posts included in it and then snag the embed codes directly from those posts.

Or, if you’re like me and that sounds awful, find a shortcut. It looks like some smartypants named CogDog found a way to grab all of the links out of existing Storifys. Cheers to him or her!

Hare: Okay, so some tedious workarounds.

LaForme: Yeah, this isn’t fun stuff at all. I’d probably use this as an opportunity to consider why you made the Storify in the first place. Is an aggregated post about Pulitzer reactions that important? Maybe, but we could also have chosen just a few, or called for a quick interview for the more surprising ones. People win Pulitzers every year.

Hare: Excellent point. I think the other thing this brings up (related very directly to embedding tweets in reporting, which we all still do) is the impermanence of all of this. Websites close. Twitter accounts get shut down. It’s great to use these tools together, but important to remember that their shelf life isn’t guaranteed.

Sorry, that got really existential.

LaForme: No! That’s so smart. One of the things I consider before I recommend a tool to someone is whether it seems like it’s going to be around for a while. So that’s a great thing to be thinking about.

In terms of finding a replacement for Storify, you can just straight-up switch to Storify 2 if your organization has a Livefyre account. I haven’t used Storify 2 because I don’t have Livefyre, but it looks essentially like a juiced-up version of its former self. Loads of customization options and all that. But again, you’ll need a Livefyre account for that. They don’t publicly list the pricing, but I’ve heard it’s significant.

You can also just embed posts, since that’s a lot easier than it used to be. My suggestion would be to consider if you really do need to embed a post before you do it. Many times, it’s a shortcut for lazy or sloppy reporting.

And if the tweet or post or whatever really is newsworthy, consider grabbing a screenshot, too. Like you said, it’s impermanent. Someone could delete it. Keep that backup copy.

In terms of Storify’s social discovery features, there’s a slew of options. My favorite is Crowdtangle because it’s free and super customizable, but things like News Whip Spike, SocialFlow and BuzzSumo are all great if you have those, too.

Wow! This got a little long. It’s been too long since we talked, Kristen!

Hare: Yeah, we’re starting the year with not just a tool but a dilemma I think we’ll face again and again. Thanks for guiding us through it. Now I gotta go make 23 pdfs…

LaForme: Maybe grab a coffee first.

Storify Need-to-Know

Launched: April 2011
Closing: May 2018
Purpose: Create embeddable stories using social media posts from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more
Alternatives: For social discovery: CrowdtangleNews Whip Spike, SocialFlow and BuzzSumo. For embedding social posts: Storify 2 or native social media embedding tools. 

Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of articles that highlight digital tools for journalists. You can read the others here. Got a tool we should talk about? Let Ren know!

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

More News

Back to News