Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

StoryWorth Aims to Elicit and Record Family Stories

“Mobile-first” startups geared for savvy smartphone users are all the rage these days. But here is an “email-first” startup aimed at older people who don’t necessarily care about technology.

And if it works, it might have the most emotional resonance of anything out there.

StoryWorth aims to create archives of personal stories told between generations. The premise starts with the question, “How well do you know your parents?”

And the answer, for nearly everyone, is: I could know them better. For people with elderly parents, that’s all the more acute.

After a parent-child pair (or some other similar relationship) signs up for StoryWorth together, the site emails out questions like, “What were your grandparents like?” and “What was your first car?” Then the older user replies via email or phone recording. And a family archive begins.

Here’s another weird bit for an Internet startup: StoryWorth will cost $49 a year after a free month.

That’s to send a message that the site is secure and reliable, and will never carry advertising, according to founder Nick Baum. “It’s important to charge to have permanence, since it’s family stories,” Baum said.

Baum, who was previously a Google product manager for things like Google Reader (insert permanence lament here), created the entire StoryWorth site himself, after pivoting out of an idea he and a co-founder created for Y Combinator. That was called WhereBerry — which was, ironically enough, exactly the opposite of StoryWorth: An app for urbanites to find and plan social activities.

As for StoryWorth, “This isn’t a trendy product; it’s a good product,” he said.

Baum thinks sharing and recording intergenerational stories is something most everyone wants to do, but many people won’t get to it without a little nudge.

And, he notes, “I’m not charging for your stories — you can download them at any time. The value I’m giving is the process, the technology, and hosting to make it super easy to do this.”

StoryWorth is an extremely basic product at the moment. Baum said this simplicity is by design, but he also hopes to add photos, transcription, editing, maps, chronologies and snail-mail support in the future.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald