News Corp is raising its game in digital news again: the company has just announced that it is acquiring Storyful, a Ireland-based “village square” for social media news, aggregating stories found on social media networks like Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, and verifying the sources in the process. The price is €18 million ($25 million).
News Corp. says that it will continue as a standalone company post-acquisition. The news comes as another News Corp. property, the Wall Street Journal, is doubling down on its digital operations, with the launch of WSJD coming up to expand how the storied newspaper expands online, covering tech news and more.
“Storyful has become the village square for valuable video, using journalistic sensibility, integrity and creativity to find, authenticate and commercialise user-generated content,” said Robert Thomson, Chief Executive of News Corp., in a statement. “Through this acquisition, we can extend the village square across borders, languages and platforms.”
The news comes about a week after another news conglomerate, Scripps, announced that it would acquire digital video startup Newsy for $35 million.
What’s interesting about Storyful is that it provides a verification that allows news organizations to make better use of content posted on social media sites without having to worry that the poster is not genuinely reporting from an event, or is who he/she says he is. That’s particularly handy on certain sites like Instagram, which have yet to start a verification program like Twitter’s. (Although there are some signs that seem to point to something like this on the cards.)
Given that sites like Instagram do not have verification services, how does Storyful work? Malachy Browne, the news editor at Storyful, confirms, “We don’t work organisationally with Instagram (or Facebook) and don’t have contact with them.”
So how does it work? By coincidence, just yesterday Browne had published a blog post describing how Instagram’s video trove had “accidentally” become a well of news content. I contacted him to explain a little more about how Storyful collects and verifies this information:
“Storyful has built internal technology that allow us to monitor Instagram (and other platforms) through its API for user-generated content. Our journalists apply editorial insight (hashtags, proper nouns and other search terms, as well as geo-location information) to the monitoring information and our technology returns a a rich stream of UGC. We don’t have hard statistics on Instagram’s video adoption (hopefully they will publish some), but we regularly see videos emerging on Instagram before other platforms, and Instagram content dominates the stream when we apply filters for geo-located content. It’s revolutionary and we’re looking at some exciting developments in our newsgathering technology in 2014. Details are under wraps for now.”
Prior to this acquisition, Storyful had received an undisclosed investment from ACT Venture Capital’s AIB Start-Up Accelerator Fund.