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Nov. 12, 2015, 10:46 a.m.
Mobile & Apps

How Storyful is turning Slack into an extension of its newswire

“It’s putting content into a useful pre-made notification format that really works for our clients.”

Usage of the messaging app Slack has exploded. The company says it has 1.25 million daily users, tenfold growth in just a year, and all kinds of news organization — from The New York Times to us here at Nieman Lab — use Slack.

Storyful, the social news agency, is no exception. Owned by News Corp, Storyful is headquartered in Dublin, but also has offices in New York Hong Kong, and Sydney, and it uses Slack to keep in touch across the time zones.

Earlier this year, a group of Storyful staffers was out at a bar when they came to the realization that they could use Slack for another purpose: To deliver content to clients.

“It’s putting content into a really useful pre-made notification format,” said Storyful product lead Alexandra Pressland. “There’s nothing more that they need to do, because they already have this on their desktops and their mobiles.”


Storyful, which was bought by News Corp in 2013, uses a mix of software and a team of journalists to find, verify, and license videos and other social media content. Though Storyful has recently expanded by working with brands and highlighting viral content, breaking news remains the core of its business.

The company delivers content through its newswire platform, but it has other tools, such as a locked Twitter account, to alert clients to breaking news or content that Storyful has been able to verify. The Slack integration is just another way for the company to interact with its clients.

Working with developer Jon Hope, the company built the integration in about a month and asked a small number of Storyful clients, including The Wall Street Journal, Mashable, and AJ+, to test out the service.

Brian Ries, Mashable’s real time news editor, said that virtually all of Mashable’s breaking news coverage is run through Slack. Mashable has set up bots, mostly using RSS, that send breaking stories from the Associated Press, Reuters, Breaking News, and others into a dedicated Slack channel. Now it’s been able to add the Storyful bot to that channel.

“It’s wholly streamlined the discovery process and brought Storyful’s content much closer to our editorial work flow,” Ries told me in an email. “Previously, it was relegated to a dashboard that required me to sign in and go hunt for content, which is something I rarely do — we’ve built a system that mostly alerts us to news we should know about. It means we see way more offerings from Storyful and never miss an opportunity or story.”

Storyful built the tool to connect to Slack using OAuth, which lets users approve the integration the way they’d give an app access to their Facebook or Twitter accounts. Users can then choose the Slack channel where they want their updates delivered, and also choose which topics they want to get news updates on.


Users can take any channel that they subscribe to in Storyful’s newswire — such as viral news and weather or 2016 election coverage — and integrate that output into Slack. At this point also, only some of the videos Storyful shares in Slack are actually viewable within the tool.

Because of the way Slack works, if users choose to add the Storyful bot to a channel in which they receive notifications, they’llget a notification for every story Storyful sends, regardless of whether they’re interested in that story or not. But once the Slack integration launches beyond just the initial test clients, Storyful plans to add more functionality.

Storyful’s goal is to provide more nuanced offerings — it might give users the option to subscribe to specific topics or news stories that are trending on a particular day, for instance. And Pressland said the company is working with Slack on ways to integrate improved analytics or better notifications.

“If, for example, there’s a huge breaking news incident, we may want to encourage a Slack subscriber to follow that [specific story],” she said. “[Slack is] working with us to figure out how to do that.”

Storyful is also looking for a way for its staffers to chat with clients in the app. “The early indication we’re getting from customers is that’s going to be a really powerful tool for them,” she said.

One of Storyful’s goals with the Slack integration is to expose more people in newsrooms to the type of work that Storyful does. Pressland said she’s hopeful that people who might not access Storyful’s own newswire service will see it in Slack, since they already spend so much time there.

“It’s in my interest that a large amount of people have access to the content,” she said. “There’s going to be no better way for me to do that than leverage Slack. The beauty is that it’s not so in your face, because the organizations themselves are the ones who set up the channels this content actually goes into.”

Because Storyful’s business is built on being useful to its clients, Pressland said the company ultimately wants to integrate its service with other common newsroom tools beyond just Slack, though she wouldn’t say which ones it’s looking into.

“We’re very much focused on getting our content to where it’s easiest for our clients to consume it,” she said.

Photo of a wire service teletype machine in the newsroom of the The Willimantic Chronicle (Conn.) in 1961 by Vin Crosbie used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     Nov. 12, 2015, 10:46 a.m.
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