Platforms for Storytellers

A computer and iPad sit next to each other on a desk.

Finding a Home for Your Stories

Whether you’re an experienced storyteller or you’re picking up a microphone for the first time, you may still have the same question, “Where do I post my story after I’ve created it?” In conjunction with our Be Here projects about place-based storytelling, we’ve reviewed a number of free platforms where storytellers can post their content. If you’re unfamiliar with the project, its aim is to democratize cultural content, giving everyone an opportunity to document a place, event, or experience that has significance–historically or even emotionally. We’re helping people record and share stories about American places and traditions that are rooted in experience and accrued knowledge, not just facts and dates.

Based on those project parameters, we researched free, third-party platforms that will host these types of stories. All of the platforms could work well, depending on your content/audience goals. Nonetheless, with our project goals in mind, this is how we ranked the platforms:

  1. Ease of use–Is it techy? Does it require advanced knowledge?
  2. Shareability–Can you share directly to social media?
  3. User base–Are enough people using this tool that your content will be seen?
  4. Searchability–Can you find your content once you’ve post it?
  5. Story type–Are there a variety of stories/content posted?
  6. Geolocation abilities–Can you pin your story to a location?
  7. Accessibility–Are there options for captioning, adding transcripts, etc?
  8. Longevity–Will the platform be around the next couple of years?

Read through the WHY of our ratings. All of these platforms have utility and may be perfect for individual or organizational storytellers, depending on short-term and long-term goals. The highest rating is 5 stars.

SoundCloud (4.5 out of 5 stars)
4.5 out of 5 starsPROs:

  • Easy for first-time users; No tech skills required
  • Can share to most major social platforms (Many social media platforms don’t allow direct upload of audio files)
  • 175 million monthly listeners
  • Allows you to hear the latest posts from people you follow
  • Great searchability for tags
  • Unlimited description field for posting transcriptions of your audio content
  • Allows you to make your content available via Creative Commons licensing
  • Access to stats for free!
  • Allows you to create playlists for various stories
  • Accepts multiple file types, including .mp3, .wav. You can even upload a video file and it will extract the audio
  • Has withstood the test of time in the tech sense
  • Allows for stories about everything!
  • Why pick this option? You want to upload a limited amount of free content and get the maximum amount of exposure for it. Ease of use is paramount to you. You’re interested in quickly retrieving and showing off your content. 

CONs:

  • Audio Only
  • Can only upload 180 minutes of content for free. Pro account starts at $7 per month
  • No geolocation capabilities

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YouTube (4.5 out of 5 stars)
4.5 out of 5 starsPROs:

  • Easy for first-time users; No tech skills required
  • Can share to major social platforms
  • 1 BILLION active users
  • Access to stats for free!
  • Allows you to create playlists for various videos
  • Offers additional videos for users when they play a similar video
  • Works in tandem with Google’s My Maps
  • Ability to translate metadata into multiple languages
  • Allows you to geolocate video location
  • Very robust analytics
  • No limits to number of videos you can upload
  • Has withstood the test of time in the tech sense
  • Allows for stories about everything!
  • Has new geolocation abilities (see article)
  • Why pick this option? You want to upload an unlimited amount of free video content, are interested in access to detailed analytics, and want maximum exposure. Ease of use is paramount to you. You have a vested interested in the accessibility of your stories.

CONs:

  • Video Only
  • Searchability–So many videos that yours can get lost unless the tags are very specific

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izi.Travel App and Website (4.0 out of 5 stars)4 out of 5 starsPROs:

  • Free and easy to use, without advanced tech knowledge
  • Ability to share stories on multiple platforms
  • Allows for upload of images, audio, video, text
  • Presents geolocated points on embedded Google maps
  • Can be used to create connected walking or collections tour
  • Mobile app can be used on site to explore in walking mode
  • Robust content management system (CMS) for people to upload and manage their stories
  • Free, detailed analytics about story usage
  • Can be used to create inside-the-gallery tours
  • Why pick this option? You’re telling stories that can be tied to specific locations, with the ultimate goal of building connected tours, whether inside or outside a museum. You believe in free and open content. 

CONs:

  • Content is sometimes difficult to find after posting
  • Longevity of platform is unclear, especially after recent changes in ownership

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Be Here Stories App  (4.0 out of 5 stars)
4 out of 5 stars

The Be Here Stories app is a tool for collecting and experiencing location-based stories. Powered by the opensource Roundware platform, this app is about simplicity–the ability to quickly and efficiently record and share an audio story and photo about a place or object through a mobile device or webpage. For listeners, Be Here Stories offers a different sort of experience from the traditional audio tour: it creates a cultural radio station wherever it is used, playing an immersive stream of the stories that have been recorded nearby. The listener’s location and movements trigger nearby stories to play, and s/he can filter, vote up or flag content to further curate the channel. Be Here Stories democratizes access to diverse voices, and offers a continuous soundtrack even in contexts where there are gaps and spaces between stories and objects or points of interest–for example a town or large collection. At the same time, Be Here Stories invites listeners to become active participants and add their stories and responses to the audio stream in real time.

For no cost, this app can be used to collect and share stories in the national context of MuseWeb’s Be Here project. A white-label version is also available for organizations and projects that want to brand their own Roundware app. Contact us for more information.

PROs:

  • Comes with professional curation of stories
  • Contributors are prompted to provide tags and other metadata with their contribution
  • No database management necessary
  • Easy to submit stories to a central story-collecting repository, based on theme
  • Listen to stories with one click
  • Presents shared stories based on your location, which makes “grouping stories” easy for towns and museums
  • Can be used to create connected walking or collections tours
  • Includes opportunities to map stories in web form as well, where an embedded map could be included on a website for easy listening
  • Stories can be about any topic, subject, or theme
  • Can be branded to your organization (for a fee)
  • Why pick this option? You’re looking for a storytelling solution that’s not fussy and simply gets your stories out there. Your organization is ready for a storytelling mobile app that’s targeted to your location.

CONs:

  • iOS and web-based version only currently
  • Customization is associated with a cost
  • Doesn’t include video at this point

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Clio App and Website (4.0 out of 5 stars)

4 out of 5 starsPROs:

  • Easy to use without advanced knowledge
  • Ability to share stories on multiple platforms
  • Allows for upload of images, audio, video, text
  • Presents geolocated point on embedded Google map
  • Allows user to search for different types of locations and by distance from your current location
  • Can be used to create connected walking or collections tours
  • Content about a location or site can be edited or improved, much like Wikipedia model
  • Includes a citation generator for help with crediting
  • Mobile app available for exploring content on site
  • Why pick this option? You’re telling stories about specific locations or historic sites. You believe in free and open content, and you’d like your content to be reused or used in study. Your content is about a building, natural resource, or historic site as opposed to a story about experiences, perceptions, memories. (Note: Those types of stories may be included as complementary content as it relates to a specific location.)

CONs:

  • Fairly small usage compared to other platforms, but platform is growing with content available in many cities across the U.S.
  • Content must be reviewed by developer before posting
  • Stories more historical in nature–not necessarily about experience

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Internet Archive (3.5 out of 5 stars)3.5 out of 5 stars
PROs:

  • Easy to use without advanced knowledge
  • Share stories on multiple social media platforms
  • Allows for upload of images, audio, video, text
  • Global content and audience
  • Has a special category for “Community Audio”
  • Options for creative commons licensing
  • Items can be favorited or flagged
  • Why pick this option? You’re telling stories about a variety of subject matters and are interested in sharing those broadly in a more traditional “library” environment. You are comfortable with data fields and metadata.)

CONs:

  • Fairly small usage compared to other platforms, but platform is growing with content available on many topics
  • Metadata options are a little overwhelming
  • Content can seemingly become buried in tag options
  • Adding simple cover art or other ancillary content can be complicated
  • Not specifically geo-located

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Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street Website (3.5 out of 5 stars)
3.5 out of 5 starsPROs:

  • Longevity and security–story becomes part of a Smithsonian archive
  • Easy to use and upload–no tech experience necessary
  • Allows for all types of stories, both historical, personal and experiential
  • Allows users to upload text, images, audio, and video–up to 5 items per entry
  • Easy to navigate share function–Easily locate your content after upload
  • Fields for story narratives and transcription inclusion increases accessibility

CONs:

  • Cannot share stories directly onto social media
  • Must upload consent forms for minors if included in stories
  • Doesn’t include robust geolocation feature
  • Website only, no current app in use
  • Limited user base (website has only been live since November 2016)
  • Stories are moderated and must be reviewed by administrator before posting

Note: The Smithsonian partners with MuseWeb on this project. Their website (still growing and improving) offers some beneficial features that others do not at this time–mainly its ties to Smithsonian’s collections and the inclusion of all forms of storytelling.

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Google’s My Maps: Add Your Story to A Map (3 out of 5 stars)
3 out of 5 stars
PROs:

  • Allows you geolocate your story; draw lines; add photos to a map point
  • Google’s usage is ubiquitous. Users are comfortable with the interface
  • Can be shared to Facebook, Twitter, Google +, email
  • As a Google product, it has a higher probability of long-term sustainability
  • Ability to import Google images into pins
  • Since it’s only a link, the story link can be about anything
  • Why pick this option? You want to visually show content on a map. You already have content on YouTube and want to easily connect the two. You want to upload an unlimited amount of free content. You are already tied into everything Google. 

CONs:

  • Not as easy for first-time users. No tech skills required, but platform not entirely intuitive
  • Cannot add audio files to pins–only videos or links to YouTube
  • While everyone uses Google Maps, YOUR pins and YOUR map content doesn’t come up in the general search. The idea here is that you’d create a map to locate your story and then share the link to your map.
  • Not as accessible as other platforms, though description fields are available for annotations

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Wikimedia Commons (3 out of 5 stars)
3 out of 5 stars
PROs: 

  • As a branch of Wikipedia, this platform has staying power
  • Includes options for an infinite amount of metadata
  • If tagged correctly, search function works well
  • Geolocation capabilities
  • Over 30 million files uploaded
  • Easily allows you to make your content available via Creative Commons licensing
  • Feels more like a “traditional” database for adding content
  • Accepts video, images, and audio and allows for unlimited descriptions
  • Stories can be about anything!
  • Why pick this option? You’re already familiar with Wikimedia in all its forms. You believe in free and open content, and you’d like your content to be reused or used in study. You’re interested in posting content for the long haul. 

CONs:

  • More techy than other platforms noted
  • Category tagging is complex
  • Only accepts .wav audio files
  • Isn’t a direct share on social media but does generate shareable links

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Historypin (3 out of 5 stars)3 out of 5 starsPROs:

  • Robust map search function allows you to select pins on the map for viewing
  • Is a very social platform: Allows posting directly into social platforms; Like Pinterest, allows users to repin content; Can favorite content
  • Large user base: 85,730 members are working on 27,844 collections and have made 33,536 comments
  • Platform has been around for a while and seems to have staying power
  • Allows users to create collections
  • Content about a location or site can be edited or improved, much like Wikipedia model

CONs:

  • Not as user friendly as Clio. Though visually stunning, the user interface is a bit confusing
  • This is a more visual platform–making the best use of text and image. If pinning audio or video, you must do so through YouTube. (If pinning audio, YouTube requires you to convert the files to a slideshow.)
  • Because of its focus on the visual, is not as accessible a platform.
  • Stories more historical in nature–not necessarily about experience
  • From their FAQ site: “We only “pin” things that have a specific date and location as this makes things easy to find and more useful for users.”
  • A desktop experience: No mobile app currently in use
  • Keyword or tag function often yields no results

Have a platform you think would meet the needs of #bHereMainSt storytellers? Let us know @museweb on Twitter. We are also building a section about platforms which are for intermediate users and associated with a a cost.