Tough lessons from the end of Storify

In 13 years of advising, I’ve seen a lot of online tools and mobile apps come and go, but there are few losses that make me as sad as the loss of Storify. For years I promoted Storify, which allowed users to write a story with directly embedded social media posts, as a tool that was simple for beginners to use without much training, yet was advanced enough to handle complex breaking news situations and other real-time coverage.

But all good things must come to an end, I guess, and Storify is coming to its end this May. This is just the latest in a quickly expanding list of promising online tools that have met their end, and it’s a good reminder about what our students are doing when they commit to telling a story through a specific, and experimental, medium.

Given that evolution of technology is inherent to the digital media world, I think it’s worthwhile to keep a few things in mind when experimenting with new tools:

If there’s a simple way to do something, keep it simple. Storify was a great tool, but much of what you would create in a Storify can be replicated in a post to your website with embedded Tweets or other social media posts.

If it’s new and free, it may not last forever. My favorite tools that have disappeared were released while in beta testing mode and I never paid a dime for them. If I’m not paying for it and you’re not paying for it, then who is?

If you can store your material on your site (instead of in some remote server), keep it local. Some online tools (like the Knight Lab projects) work from a Google document or spreadsheet that is stored in your Google drive, so you aren’t sending a bunch of material to someone else’s web server (well, Google’s, but they don’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon). Instead, you keep the material and they create a script. With that method, there’s less of a risk that your stuff will just poof! disappear at some point. 

Archive what you can whenever you can. Downloading, taking screenshots, exporting… whatever you can do to save a version of your site every now and then is a good idea for creating a historical record. Take a page out of the book of the Internet Archive and record what’s there before it’s gone.

Impermanence is just part of the nature of digital publishing. Accept, and teach your students, that part of digital publishing is knowing that what you publish today may not be there forever, at least not in its original form.

If your staff has content created through Storify, you have until May 16 to export it using Storify’s online archiving tools. You can find the instructions for doing that here:

Michelle Balmeo

Michelle Balmeo, MJE, is the adviser of The Whirlwind newsmagazine and online news publication at West Albany High School in Albany, Ore. She's done some print stuff, some video stuff, and some web stuff over the past 16 years as a student media adviser.

Michelle Balmeo has 66 posts and counting. See all posts by Michelle Balmeo

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