ASF: “Alternative Storytelling Forms”.
It made Journalism professors drool, and it made us students roll our eyes: scholar-speak for captioned photo essays, or a unique graphic, or, for the ballsiest of muckrakers, a social media shoutout (crowd-sourced tweets!). To their credit, the professors recognized the importance of the paradigm shift, if not the scope. Just a few years out of living exclusively within NPR and multiple-choice questions in journalism classrooms across the country, heightened storytelling online has matured from awkward Frankenstein experiment to something streamlined, accessible, awing and entirely expected of major publications.

Three More Storytelling Apps

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Exposure
If you’re looking for a desktop equivalent of Storehouse for impactful and beautiful storytelling with large photos and simplistic layout than Exposure is one to try. It offers a photo-centric blogging platform that keeps layouts simple and looks good when viewed from any device. exposure.so

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Spark Cam
From the perennial thinkers at IDEO comes a simple video capture and sharing app with beautiful user interface and a couple tricks up its sleeve. Additions like filters, soundtracks and the ability to stitch multiple scenes together (and you’re able to save movies in progress and add scenes later) let your creativity roam unencumbered. itunes.com

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Ultravisual App
Shoot photos and videos and combine your story into a collection around a theme. Collaborate with others on a collection and see collections your friends have put up. And it all just looks really nice. itunes.com

In the past several years major publications like the aforementioned NPR (long the pioneer of ASF), The New York Times, Epic Magazine and even smaller more dextrous pubs like yours truly have realized that text with a single pretty picture perched atop it doesn’t do readers justice. Bastions of wall-to-wall text are still alive and kicking (see: longform.org), but the jury has returned with a solid “not guilty of sensationalism” verdict on outside-the-box storytelling, even for formats that before seemed unimaginable or even absurd. Text overlays are now lame. Cinemagraphs (moving images)? Sweet. Graphic-novel-style illustrations? Even better. Interactive maps? Cool, but only if there’s a fly-in effect. The word immersion gets thrown around a lot lately, and it’s apt.

That’s the situation for the big dogs. What about the rest? If smartphones and the internet made instant news-telling available to all and bashed down the prohibitive gates of pro journalism, apps like Storehouse are rebuilding the ruins as an escalator. Until now, those outside of big-name magazines and papers haven’t had access to flashy alternative publishing formats, and the absence has been a glaring one.

Storehouse brings illustrative storytelling to the everyman (and everywoman) through an iPad app with a very basic formula: add photos from dropbox, your photo library, Flickr or Instagram, then swipe, pinch, and pull to structure them in a wide variety of formats, with or without text, which can likewise be added and edited. The app is free; the stories you create are entirely public and all readable through the app. It’s an astonishingly easy way to turn straightfoward stories into gorgeous features, and though it barely scratches the surface of some professional tools like Scrollkit or proprietary ones like what the Gray Lady uses, it’s certainly a giant leap for small publishers.

It’s not a standalone example, either. Storytelling apps are gaining momentum, whether they’re focused on photography, text or videos (mostly, it’s all three). The thesis is the same across the board: combined formats make for more engrossing stories. And whether or not tools like Storehouse make freelance individuals better storytellers or any more morally forthright in their journalism, the fact remains: those same individuals now have a much larger arsenal for eloquent online pieces. Some will use these apps to more effectively “seek the truth”, and others will use them to more effectively seek the best format for their weekend vacation pics. But as an inspiration for a step beyond the bland or ordinary story, at least from a reader’s perspective, Storehouse is a vehicle for pushing boundaries, one that may soon cause “alternative storytelling form” to refer to text-only writing.