News Corp, the global media company that owns the Wall Street Journal, announced on Friday its acquisition of the Dublin-based social news agency Storyful for $25 million. Storyful founder Mark Little is a former broadcaster for Ireland’s national television and radio broadcast network, RTÉ. Little stands to earn about $6.8 million from the deal. The sale demonstrates the growing importance of user-generated content in the news industry.
On Storyful’s website, Little describes the agency as, “the first news agency of the social media age.” Storyful’s team of reporters, broadcasters, designers, and coders works to verify the authenticity of online video and to provide licensing of usage rights for viral video. Among its clients are Reuters, ABC News, and the New York Times. The agency, founded in 2008, makes money by receiving a share of advertising earnings generated by its video content. Storyful will remain in Dublin as an independent division of News Corp.
As a broadcast journalist, Little found that social media can be a powerful force in journalism. He describes his experience of watching the Arab Spring through user-generated content on YouTube, evoking an authenticity lacking in much mainstream news media. In addition, Storyful offers its clients a variety of digital tools designed to determine which stories, based on social media trends, are likely to achieve a large audience. Storyful-identified videos received 575 million views in 2013.
In regards to the sale, Little commented: “We join News Corp at a moment of transformation. Together, we will combine the authority of premier original content with the authenticity of user-generated content. We will define the opportunities that the digital landscape presents rather than simply adapt to them. Ours will be a powerful and unique partnership.”
News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson said: “Storyful has become the village square for valuable video, using journalistic sensibility, integrity and creativity to find, authenticate and commercialise user-generated content.” He added, “Video is a vocation for the new News, which will combine with Storyful to reach a growing global audience, enhancing our own editorial products and creating new content communities.”