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Former War Reporter’s Million Dollar Idea to Battle Social Media Overload

Power Pitch

It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of updates coming at us from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, and it’s increasingly difficult to find anything worthwhile in all that social noise. But before you become digitally deaf, one man has a plan to help you tune out the noise and tune in to the stuff you really want.

Burt Herman’s plan to help you make sense of it all is Storify, a big idea he believes will disrupt how the world is informed. CNBC gave Herman 60 seconds to prove it. Can he pull it off? Watch his Power Pitch and judge for yourself.

Herman, a former war correspondent with the Associated Press, co-founded Storify in 2010. He was looking to level the social-media battlefield by giving people a way to see, hear and find the voices connected to the stories they’re most interested in.

According to the Storify website, “Our goal is to amplify the voices that matter by enabling our users to make sense of what people are reporting on social networks, to find meaning and provide context.”

Essentially, Storify is a blogging platform that specializes in a social storytelling. It lets users weave together stories with the updates, images, links and videos posted by people anywhere in the world on a social platform. According to Herman more than 800,000 people use the service to create stories, and millions more read them.

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Herman told CNBC, “Storify is the best way that you can collect and publish what you see on social networks. We have a great drag-and-drop interface that makes it super-simple to search across the entire Web and publish that in a story which can then be embedded anywhere on the web.”

Every month users incorporate millions of social-media elements into the pieces they create, he said. But is there a market for the stories they produce?

“On our entire network, we’re getting about 20 million readers a month,” Herman said.

Many readers are attracted to Storify by the familiar names in journalism that have adopted the platform to tell stories with content collected from other platforms. They include NBC’s TODAY, The New York Times (NYT), CNBC (which produces the Power Pitch), CNN and Al Jazeera.

When TODAY featured First Lady Michelle Obama’s trip to South Africa on Storify using only photos posted by her Instagram account the posting got over 712,000 views.

“Journalists can sift through all the different posts on different networks and give context to it,” Herman told CNBC. “They can say, ‘This is important. This is wrong; this is right. This is an amazing photo from the ground.’ I think that’s a really valuable role journalists can play in the age of social media.”

But the site’s most popular piece, with more than 3.2 million views, is by Ben Doernberg, who was a university student when he created: “Bus Monitor Karen Klein's $700,000 Internet Army.

It’s the story of a school bus monitor who was recorded on video by middle-school students as they verbally abused her. It includes the original bullying video that went viral, plus tweets and videos that fueled an online fundraising effort.

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Also on Storify are more than 100 stories posted by the White House’s official account. A recent piece, @WhiteHouse Reaches 4 Million Followers, was posted on the day its official Twitter account passed 4 million followers. In 14 days, the story, which looks back at the “favorite moments” tweeted by @whitehouse, got just 1,456 views.

When asked about Storify’s profit model, Herman said, “We charge major publishers for premium features. We are building other future business models around social advertising.”

Premium features run between $79 and $399 a month. They include increased customization, privacy options, ad-free stories and the ability to add more account users. The company started the paid plans 3 months ago and Herman said so far 130 customers have signed up for it.

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Storify has raised $2 million in seed funding, with Khosla Ventures as its key investor. The company, headquartered in San Francisco, has 10 full-time employees.

Herman believes @Storify is a game-changing idea worth millions. Watch him deliver his Power Pitch and judge for yourself, along with CNBC host Tyler Mathisen @TylerMathisen and Power Pitch panelists Comcast Ventures Managing Director Andrew Cleland @awcleland and Yahoo Interim Chairman Maynard Webb @Maynard.

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