How Storyful used a start-up culture to create a legacy company

Storyful is a social media news agency that curates relevant tweets, posts, and video from people in the center of news events worldwide. It also provides social media dashboards, real-time discovery tools, feeds, and analytics to customers.

Adam Thomas, chief product officer of Storyful, spoke about integrating a startup culture into a legacy company at the first day of the INMA European Media Conference in Budapest, Hungary.

Storyful won the INMA Global Innovation Award in 2015. With innovation already a part of its young culture, Storyful faced the challenge of scaling its efforts when acquired by News Corp in late 2013.

Storytelling has changed. It’s not about sending a cameraman and journalist to report on a problem. Nowadays, stories need eyewitnesses and people in place, and that’s where Storyful comes into play.

Today, 80% of content shared on the Web is user-generated content. These statistics prove it:

  • 50 billion photos are uploaded to Facebook every day.

  • 500 million tweets are posted daily.

  • 5 Vine videos are tweeted every second.

  • 70 million photos are uploaded daily to Instagram.

  • 300 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute.

The problem is how to reduce the noise to get the right signal.

Here’s how Storyful works: It monitors every social network that exists to find really interesting stuff. From this point, the company passes these pieces of content to experienced journalists to put the content into words. Storyful then verifies it and delivers it to media houses to use and profits from it.

Eighty people in six offices – New York, Atlanta, Dublin, London, Hong Kong, and Sydney with headquarters in Dublin – work for Storyful. They can discover social content on any topic, trend, or vertical worldwide.

Scaling the right team is one of the most important things for the company. It needs a full stack: journalists, designers, developers. As Thomas says, “Storyful wants teams to be like Swiss army knives, but at the same time operate like scalpels.”

How to do that? Integrating scale with culture, Storyful created a six-point manifesto:

  1. Build culture. The company is a culture. Employees go through a two-week onboarding process where they learn all skills necessary for the company.

  2. Diversification. Different people come up with different solutions. Employees come up with really creative ideas when put in the right place.

  3. Data-driven company. Metrics drive smart decision-making.

  4. Time to collaborate. Face-to-face planning is prioritised.

  5. Fail fast. The company knows it has to innovate rapidly. Slowing down can be painful for the company, so failure is a part of its development.

  6. A clear focus and user-oriented goals. It is important to remember who the users are and what their needs are.

Innovation is not a process. It’s a culture. Your culture is your company, Thomas says.

About Marek Miller

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