Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

c.2013 New York Times News Service

In a move highlighting the prominent role that user-generated news and video are expected to play in the future of journalism, News Corp., owner of The Wall Street Journal, announced Friday that it had bought Storyful, a company that bills itself as the world’s first social news agency.

Storyful distinguishes itself from other news outlets that rely on social media for their stories by trumpeting its commitment to verification. The company trolls websites like Instagram and YouTube for interesting but not widely publicized material, uses journalists to verify its authenticity and brings it to the attention of its clients. It makes money by sharing in the revenue from the advertising it generates.

Although the purchase price is only $25 million, the deal illustrates how mainstream newsrooms are transforming themselves in the age of social media. It also reflects the company’s eagerness to expand its video presence.

“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,” said Robert Thomson, chief executive of News Corp.

Storyful, which is based in Dublin, is the first acquisition for News Corp. since it spun off its cable and film properties in July as 21st Century Fox. Storyful will remain an independent division at News Corp., with the intention of maintaining its clients in news and advertising. (The New York Times is a client.)

Storyful will keep its current management team of Mark Little, chief executive, and David Clinch, executive editor, both of them former television journalists. They will be joined by Rahul Chopra, a senior video executive at News Corp., who will take a leadership role.

News organizations have been struggling to figure out how to use social media to sharpen their reports without being taken in by reports that are not true. This month, a spate of false tales were published on digital news sites that rely heavily on web-derived content publishing. Several of these media companies, including Gawker and Mashable, said they often didn’t have time to verify material taken from other places before posting it.

It is not a risk that most traditional news outlets feel comfortable taking. In theory, Storyful helps solve that problem.

“It’s a smart move,” said Joshua Benton of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard. “Storyful is the clear leader in a space that’s going to do nothing but grow. However much demand there is for verification of social media today, it’s going to be bigger tomorrow and bigger again the day after that. I imagine it will be useful both internally in News Corp. newsrooms and as a revenue driver.”