A Social Journalism Partnership Four Years In The Making

Google News Lab and Storyful are proud to announce the launch of the YouTube Newswire for the world’s journalists and newsrooms. While the one-stop destination for news, weather and politics is new, the partnership between Storyful and Google/YouTube isn’t. In addition to the YouTube Newswire, Storyful is centrally involved in two other products being launched today: First Draft Coalition and the Witness Media Lab.

To mark the launch of the YouTube Newswire, Storyful Founder and Director of Innovation Mark Little and Managing Editor Áine Kerr reflect on how the channel has been almost five years in the making.


In the beginning

@marklittlenews, Founder & Director of Innovation

Five years is nothing, at least in the history of journalism. But in that brief window, YouTube has arguably changed our concept of storytelling as much as any development of the communications age.

Back in 2011, when Storyful began formally working with YouTube, 48 hours of video were uploaded on the platform every minute. Now it’s a 300 hour-per-minute deluge, some of which has the capacity to change the way we see the world. YouTube has profoundly altered and enhanced the way we document history.

In the age of the eyewitness, YouTube is the archive of now. Since the early and idealistic days of the Arab Spring, we at Storyful have been humbled by the power of user-generated content in comparison with traditional journalism.

As a former foreign correspondent, I’ve seen war and disaster close up. But YouTube videos from a range of countries including Libya, Yemen, and Syria have been as raw, authentic and impactful as anything witnessed by an experienced correspondent, if not more.

Before YouTube, you needed a journalist, a satellite dish, and a TV network to spread images that could change the world. Today, all you need is to be in the right place, at the right time, with a camera phone and a platform like YouTube.

So, does this mean journalists are becoming redundant? Absolutely not. The value of journalism as a means of separating news from noise has never been more vital. Without journalists, who will verify, manage and contextualize the deluge of eyewitness content surging through YouTube? Reporters may no longer own the story, but they are the connection between the most authentic voices and the widest possible audience.

And this, for me, is where the Google News Lab — and the projects it announces today — mark a great leap forward. It has created a space to forge a new partnership between eyewitnesses and storytellers, and explore the ethical, human rights and storytelling challenges of the years ahead.

The evolution

@AineKerr, Managing Editor

More than 100,000 YouTube videos have been verified and contextualized by the Storyful team since our newsroom’s beginnings in 2010.

Our first client-ready YouTube story, from July 28, 2010, shows Naoto Kan making a speech on his election as Japan’s prime minister. Ever since, YouTube has been a lens through which our team has viewed a world in constant conflict and renewal.

We’ve seen human nature play out in all its complexities: shocking moments of death and destruction amid the tragedy of war; historic moments when governments were elected and overthrown; and moments when we were reminded of the awesome power of nature. But for all those moments of strife and trauma, there have been innumerable moments on YouTube depicting the simple joys of life.

We at Storyful — as journalists, technologists, innovators, creators — became better storytellers because of our work on YouTube and our desire to find more content, faster. We came to understand that the world of journalism is about discovery and not search; that standalone pieces of social are powerful, but need good, old-fashioned journalism to turn them into stories.

We’ve always taken our commitments to YouTube, our newsroom clients and the uploaders we work with very seriously. Our mission has always been to mine the platform, sort the news from noise and find the stories worth telling. This, the YouTube Newswire, is the next step forward in that mission.

In 2012, more than 350,000 newsworthy videos were uploaded from Syria alone. One of our major pieces of investigation focused on the alleged chemical attacks east of Damascus.

By this time, YouTube was not only a source for hard-hitting stories of massive impact, but we were also helping YouTube offer curated experiences with partnerships involving channels such as CitizenTube, YouTube Politics, YouTube Human Rights Channel and more. With our expertise in news, weather, human rights and politics, we also became official YouTube partners in 2013 in order to provide a revenue-share model to content creators, something which gave rise to our Three Cs of Compensation, Consultation and Courtesy.

When the tragic events around the Boston Marathon bombing unfolded in May 2013, the immediacy, scale and power of YouTube became clear to all, even those harboring any doubts. Anyone who searched on YouTube that day for videos related to Boston was brought to a curated stream of verified content powered by Storyful, next to emergency information. That way, what the public saw was accurate and provided updates in real time.

While the platform has become noisier and more diverse, Storyful has gotten much more sophisticated in its technology, discovery, verification, acquisition and distribution of video. We’ve done extensive social sleuthing, worked with the likes of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times on UGC documentaries that had YouTube at their heart, debunked popular YouTube videos and amplified those videos at the heart of some of the biggest news stories of recent years.

Almost five years later — in the year that YouTube marks its 10th anniversary — it seems appropriate to launch the YouTube Newswire: an open-source tool for the world’s newsrooms and journalists; a tool that is grounded in years of trial and error, partnership and expertise.

And so now, on June 17, 2015, the problem we are trying to fix is the same we’ve been innovating against since 2010: helping journalists find stories worth telling amid the noise of social. The noise and the need for curation have never been greater — and neither has our team’s commitment to creating the best social journalism.

For any media queries about YouTube Newswire, please contact press@storyful.com

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