Storyful has been acquired by News Corp, the Murdoch-led company that owns The Times, the WSJ, The Sun, and Sky television amongst a number of other media companies. This link-up may look like a good move for the user generated content (UGC) verifying company, but the acquisition will do little to enamour Murdoch to the internet, and this may just end up killing Storyful.
Storyful was launched in 2010, and has been on hand to verify UGC content coming from Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and more as the user number of those platforms have swelled, and they have become the places where news is often broken. Storyful link into the API’s of these services to gain access to the videos, before being able to filter the feeds by location or keywords, and then they journalists are better able to verify the posts, pictures, and videos.
Storyful is a company that relies on the open nature of the web, the way people share content with each other freely, and they have built a very useful layer on top of this. The problem with this acquisition, is Rupert Murdoch and News Corp continue to be hostile to this very notion.
News Corp managed to kill MySpace, because they brought in executives that did not understand the social web, and simply saw the platform as a way to squeeze more advertising in front of millions of users, and not a way to help people communicate and share with each other.
More recently News Corp has put all its major newspaper titles behind impermeable paywalls, and whilst I am certainly not against paywalls – without some permeability you are actively trying to keep your content from being shared or discussed. By creating such a complete paywall, News Corp is both looking to keep its readership locked-in and not looking for content elsewhere, essentially ignoring the beauty of the interlinking web, as well as keep those pesky people that don;t want to pay a monthly fee out.
All these moves point to a corporation that doesn’t understand the social web and stubbornly tries to avoid it as no-one has yet found a way to monetise it – and this is where Storyful may start to have issues with the acquisition.
Storyful relies on people on social networks posting content that can then be shared, and licenses that content from the original uploader for use by a wide variety of news agencies and newspapers. They add a layer of credibility and a license to exploit the content. News Corp, however, have a history of taking user platforms and such content, ignoring compromise and just exploiting it until they have strangled it to death (hello MySpace). For example, if Storyful starts working exclusively with News Corp companies, then whilst that may mean exclusives and money for Murdoch & co, the content will not appear across other news outlets around the world, and this may mean less money for the creator. People share because they want to be heard, and by locking all its content away, Murdoch and News Corp are the antithesis of the sharing culture – and that might just hold Storyful back.