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Originally published Sunday, May 1, 2011 at 10:00 PM

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Storify, other startups filter deluge of online news

A Web startup named Storify is the latest aiming to help journalists and others collect and filter the deluge of publicly available content from Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, YouTube and other sites.

The New York Times

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SAN FRANCISCO — News events as varied as the commercial jet landing in the Hudson River and the uprisings in Egypt have demonstrated that the broader cellphone-using population — not professional reporters — are often the first source of breaking news, uploading Twitter posts, photos and video to the Web. But the result can leave people drowning in too much information.

A Web startup named Storify, which opened to the public last week, aims to help journalists and others collect and filter all this information.

Using the Storify website, people can find and piece together publicly available content from Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, YouTube and other sites. They can add text and embed the resulting collages of content on their own sites. During a private test period, reporters from The Washington Post, NPR, PBS and other outlets used the service.

Storify, based in San Francisco, is one of several Web startups — including Storyful, Tumblr and Color — that are developing ways to help journalists and others sift through the explosion of online content and publish the most relevant information. Investors also are betting there is a market for filtering the social Web for high-quality posts. Khosla Ventures has invested $2 million in Storify.

Even though journalists may not be the first on the scene, they select the most reliable sources, digest loads of information and provide context for events, said Burt Herman, a founder of Storify and a longtime Associated Press reporter.

"We have so many real-time streams now, we're all drowning," Herman said. "So the idea of Storify is to pick out the most important pieces, amplify them and give them context."

Al-Jazeera English introduced a talk show, "The Stream," which appeared online recently and will be televised this month, that collects perspectives from social media using Storify. A recent item on the fear of Islam in the United States, for instance, included YouTube videos, Twitter posts and paragraphs from essays on websites and blogs.

"Storify is essentially our script," said Ahmed Shihab Eldin, a producer and host of "The Stream." "We knew we basically needed to capitalize on the reality that the industry is facing, which is that we no longer have exclusivity on sharing and publishing information."

Andy Carvin, NPR's one-man encyclopedia on Twitter for the uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa, first used Storify to cover the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, and he realized the reaction to the event was a story itself.

"It quickly evolved into looking at how people were discussing the media coverage surrounding it and its potential political impact," said Carvin, senior strategist on NPR's social-media desk. "There's a big need for tools that allow people to collect bits of social-media context and organize them in some fashion."

The tools will remain free, but Storify will consider selling ads or charging brands to use the service, said Xavier Damman, a Storify founder. Levi's and Samsung already have used it for marketing campaigns.

Herman started Storify with Damman, who is an engineer. Herman also founded Hacks/Hackers, a group for journalists and engineers with chapters worldwide.

"We're really trying to put together computer science plus storytelling and journalism to think creatively about how you can blend the two worlds," he said.

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