A Peek Behind Innovation in the News

lipdub proposalAmongst the immediacy and relevance of its news stream, Storyful regularly uncovers videos that go viral.

The Dublin-based start-up’s latest feat was finding Isaac’s Live Lip-Dub Proposal— a YouTube marriage proposal that shot from 5,000 to 5.5 million views over the course of a weekend after it was pushed out to Storyful’s customers.

“What is does for us is make us heroes in our clients’ eyes,” CTO Paul Watson (@paulmwatson) told May’s Last Tuesday meet up.

Attending with Innovation Director Gavin Sheridan (@gavinsblog), the Storyful (@Storyful) name proved to be quite a draw. At least twice the normal crowd appeared to hear the two energetic and passionate tech-news gurus.

Acting as a modern news wire, Storyful’s filters use both technical and human algorithms to divine news from noise on social media.

It services are then sold to newsrooms around the world where hard-pressed journalists struggle to keep up with the social-media deluge. Customers include the New York Times, Google, and even YouTube, itself.

When Watson joined Storyful one year ago, there were eight employees, he said. Now there are 28. The challenge faced by the company’s own journalists and tech experts is to find the real news on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube quickly, Watson said. “A lot of it is dross and crap, but a lot of it is Syria and Lebanon,” he said.

Storyful also adds value by helping news organizations handle social media, Sheridan said. Many news rooms struggled to monitor social media streams and gave up in frustration. Meanwhile, many traditional journalists are still intimidated or uninterested in new technology, he said.

Describing some of their techniques, Sheridan used the U.S. presidential primaries as an example. A phone video of a candidate could be posted. A look up of the candidate’s itinerary is matched against geo-location. That quickly confirms the uploader’s location and establishes accuracy and timeliness, he said.

Meanwhile, the team works to find the source and get permission to release the footage as news, Sheridan said. Sources don’t ask for payment but usually want attribution, he added.

Another important service provided by Storyful is examining the “provenance of videos,” Sheridan said. There are many hoaxes on the internet. A week after their talk, for example, the news agency used Google Maps, eyewitnesses and science to call foul on a video purporting to show surfers riding a once-in-a-century wave past Sydney’s Opera House.

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