A lot happened in 2005.
A seismic shift was underway. YouTube launched. Major newspapers were at the precipice of a decline in revenue, which would fall by over 50% in the next ten years.
In my little corner of the world a dream was taking shape. I had spent 10 years working for MSNBC.com and Corbis trying to shape a way forward in visual journalism. At a time when many mourned the “death” of the profession itself, I was excited at what was now possible.
I was fascinated by the idea that I could use new technologies to innovate on how we report, present and distribute stories. I refused to believe that it was impossible or financially unsustainable.
Most important, I knew the world would always need well crafted stories and those that could deliver them. Storytellers provide the mirrors we need to see ourselves and, more importantly, each other. Storytelling replaces anonymity with humanity, making it possible for us to understand things that seem otherwise far away, or worse, irrelevant.
I launched MediaStorm in 2005 with the deep belief that audiences around the world could and would discern quality content when they saw it. I wasn’t after money – there are much better ways to make money – I was interested in telling stories that mattered, ones that could make a difference in the world. What I knew to be true was that people act on their conscious, they just needed to a way to authentically connect. What they needed was intimate stories that brought you face to face with people, took you inside their homes and their lives in a way that made it impossible to look away when confronted with some of the horrors our stories have exposed.
One of the many gifts of running my own company was that I had the privilege of giving each story the time and space to make it work. Over the years we have learned that a story can always get better, if you just give it time.
This philosophy has driven much of our success. Today, our Publication contains over thirty award-winning stories from some of the best storytellers in the industry. We were told no one would want to hear the stories in Intended Consequences, of the children born of rape in Rwanda, or of Kingsley’s Crossing, the story of a young man trying to escape endless poverty in Cameroon. We published them anyway and Kingsley’s Crossing earned us our first Emmy and Intended Consequences our first duPont Award in Journalism.
Founder Brian Storm presents the evolution of MediaStorm on November 2, 2015 at the IFP Media Center in Brooklyn, NY.
The MediaStorm Platform
We haven’t been satisfied with just telling the important stories of our time. Innovation is at the heart of our company and nowhere has this been more evident than with the development of the MediaStorm Platform, a disruptive video playback and content management system that gives storytellers control of how they package, monetize and distribute content.
People said that in the world of YouTube and Vimeo, we’d be crazy to develop our own technology. But to sustain ourselves financially, we knew we had to know our audience, control how we package and brand our films, and get people to pay for our stories. Yes, you have to be on YouTube. Yes, you have to excite your communities on Vimeo. But at the end of the day, if no one is willing to say that they value your work at the price of a cup of coffee, then you’re going to spend a lot less time making work that matters, and a lot more time creating high volume, low paying perishable work.
The MediaStorm Platform, supported by a brilliant team of developers and designers that have walked through these doors over the past five years, is the toolset that has enabled MediaStorm to stay true to our values. It’s allowed us to learn about our audience, engage them by offering calls to action, charge a minimal amount for content we’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars creating, and ultimately has allowed us to control how our work is viewed around the web. Some of our most viewed work–like Undesired, Intended Consequences, and ICP Infinity Award Winner David Guttenfelder would never have gotten noticed in the way they did were it not for the MediaStorm Platform.
Today, we’ve licensed the Platform to clients that are dedicated to empowering storytellers to survive the digital landscape–including the Sundance Institute, Fork Films, and the International Center for Transitional Justice. We’re humbled by their endorsement of our vision and hope that it will inspire other storytellers to join the movement to gain back control of how their work is viewed, distributed, and monetized.
Spreading the Gospel
The spirit of innovation led us to think critically about how we help prepare and support the next generation of storytellers for a changing world. The MediaStorm Training Program emerged both as a way to do this and to inspire storytellers of all backgrounds to keep pushing the boundaries of the craft and of their own abilities. We developed these programs after years of hearing the same thing over and over again:
What does it take to develop character-driven narratives with high production values on the web?
How can I do this work and stay alive financially?
How do I build audience?
How can my stories create impact?
We haven’t completely solved many of these quandaries, but we have made progress. And we have always been happy to share those results. Our training has been one of my proudest contributions to the profession I care so deeply about. Through it, we have trained hundreds of people in-person and scaled this effort significantly through our online training. In giving access to our methodology, philosophies, and techniques to both professionals and students at universities throughout the country, MediaStorm has, I hope, had a hand in preparing the next generation of storytellers to thrive.
Thousands of entrepreneurs have said this over and over, but it bears repeating; people are what turn a business from one guy working in his socks to a team of professionals working to change their part of the universe. And that’s been exactly true for MediaStorm. It takes a team to nurture a story, to build technology, to run a business. Perhaps what I am most proud of is the amazing people who have helped build MediaStorm. The MediaStorm community extends across the globe and is inclusive of many different skills. But we all have one thing in common–a profound love and respect of story.
Testimonials on MediaStorm’s impact from staff, alumni, clients, workshop participants and educators for MediaStorm’s 10 year anniversary. Please share your comments via video or in writing and send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The people who make up the MediaStorm community are not just our staff, alumni, contributors, and workshop participants, but also our clients. These are the people who took a chance on a young, independant company in the early days of digital storytelling–like Doug Menuez, National Geographic, and the the Los Angeles Times–who gave us the hope and resources we needed to even imagine a future. They have shaped who we are in so many ways–they taught us to think critically about audience engagement and voice. They have encouraged us to leverage our digital savvy to create social media campaigns that both lead to a wider audience and ask audiences to act. We’ve stretched our muscles in every way because our clients have demanded it. And we’re a much better company because of it.
To our clients and contributors–I say thank you for making it possible for us to achieve our greatest goal: doing what we love to do for ten years, for allowing us to work with purpose and clarity towards a common goal. At a time when the voice of independent media is at peril, your support has meant the difference between life and death.
To the staff and alumni–thank you for being soul and voice of MediaStorm. For dedicating your time and talents to co-creating a unique culture that I am blessed to call home.
Celebrating 10 years
Anniversaries are milestones to cherish. The last few weeks have been both intense and emotional. It’s not often that I take the time to reflect on what has happened over the course of a decade. I’m always so excited about what we are currently working on that it’s difficult to look back.
I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to wake up each day and focus on work that I love. I’m thankful for encouragement and support we have received over the past weeks from:
James Estrin at the New York Times: The Killer App: Storytelling
Alan Taylor at the Atlantic: Making a Decade of Quality Storytelling
and from members of our community.
Share your thoughts
In reflecting back on the past decade we’ve heard some amazing things from our subscribers, clients, contributors and partners. We’d love to hear from you as well.
What has MediaStorm meant to you? Have any of our stories shifted your perspective in some way? Have we impacted the way you think about and develop your own work? Have you used our online training? Have you found inspiration in any way from our work? What do you hope MediaStorm will do in the future?
We’d love to include your thoughts on our digital channels. Please share your comments via video or in writing and send to email@example.com.
And finally, to you our audience, thank you for choosing us. Thank you for saying that you believe in supporting the stories and storytellers that define a generation. Thank you for the value you have placed on the story and the belief you’ve placed in us in telling those stories.