Storehouse Storytelling App Gets Embeds And Improved Community Building Tools

Storehouse, an app for iPad that functions as a story creation tool with images, video and text, is getting a nice update today. The update brings the ability to embed stories in blogs and on the web, as well as comments and an easy way to find Storehouse users on Twitter and Facebook.

I spoke to co-founder Mark Kawano about the new release and some of the rationale for introducing embeds as the first big new feature — and why it took so long to add any social elements.

The embeds, which work like the below, are gorgeous. Kawano says that they spent a lot of time thinking about how to present stories in an enticing way, while still honoring flexible layouts.

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If, for instance, you embed it in a Tumblr post with a narrow column, only the ‘cover’ of a story will display. If the width of the display allows, you’ll see an additional two ‘teaser’ images. Displaying a few images from a story makes a lot of sense for a Storehouse embed because they really are narratives. Where many photo sharing services concentrate on delivering a single image to share, Storehouse’s ‘atomic unit’ is the entire story — which leaves the viewer with an overall impression.

It’s important that the embed delivers on that same promise, that there may be some stunning  individual imagery, but it’s the collected whole that makes it compelling.

Adding embeds will act as a good evangelism tool for Storehouse users, which Kawano says number in the hundreds of thousands — with tens of thousands of stories published.

As many other services like Vine and Instagram have discovered, embeds allow for those units of content to be seeded throughout the web. For now, the stories will be viewed directly on Storehouse’s (pretty solid) web presence — something Kawano marks up to a matter of trust; the images and video that users give them live on their servers.

Along with the embed features, this version of Storehouse carefully salts in some community features that were left out of the initial release. Kawano says that this was intentional, as they wanted to make sure the focus was solidly on the creation tools for the first version. I was impressed by the layout tools, which feature some of the best execution of any iPad creation app I’ve used, so that was probably a good choice.

But now, the users have been asking for a few features that will flesh out the platform a bit, especially when it comes to getting feedback on their stories. Among those are comments and the ability for users to see how many ‘recommendations’ their stories have gotten. Comments can be moderated by the author and any reader can report inappropriate comments, but Kawano says that the general enthusiasm of their initial user base means that he’s not too worried about the quality of comments they’ll get.

You can now also see which of your Facebook and Twitter friends are using Storehouse and follow them quickly, as well as other suggested users.

Storehouse was co-founded by Kawano, who was previously at Apple and Adobe, and Timothy Donnelly, who worked on The Daily.  They’re up to 10 full-time employees now and have taken an undisclosed amount of funding from True Ventures, Lerer Ventures and SV Angel.

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Storehouse is a fantastic app, one of my favorites in terms of interaction design in recent memory. That doesn’t mean guaranteed success, of course. Apps that allow you to share photos and videos are practically seeping out of the pores of Silicon Valley these days. But there is something compelling about the ease of creation and the way that it serves a different kind of audience than an Instagram feed or tweeted image does.

Kawano attributes it to the longevity of the stories — quite a few of which take forms other than ‘here’s my vacation’ collections. Recipes, stories about specific locations that act as guide books and other ‘evergreen’ content form an interesting trend that could cause many of the items published on Storehouse to be referenced back far more than any ‘ephemerally’ shared image on a social service. That’s an interesting trend that flies in opposition to the accepted wisdom, which is that people want ‘new’ stuff all the time and don’t want to look at old content much, if at all. Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 12.06.10 PM

There are also some interesting trends that Kawano says Storehouse doesn’t quite know what to make of yet, like very strong K-12 adoption. Once in a while a flood of ‘reports’ on topics like books, countries or animals will shoot by — essentially text books created by students on a particular topic. Teachers have given the company some interesting feedback as well, saying that interactive textbooks like those promoted as the next big thing by Apple offer a ‘digital’ version of something that already exists, but don’t especially move the needle on the teaching end.

But something like Storehouse, say the educators, allows students to build their own textbooks, learning about the topics as they go, applying critical thought and editing procedures along the way. For now, that’s an interesting offshoot of the way users are taking to Storehouse, but it’s an intriguing one.

Sure, digital textbooks are cool, but what happens when you actually enable students or teachers to create their own materials as well as lesson plans. It may be an oddity for now, but maybe not forever.