A new visual storytelling tool, which enables users to bring together video, text and interactive polls into a single multimedia package, has officially launched today.
Soo Meta, built by a Budapest-based team, offers a simple drag-and-drop system to pull in content from across the web into its online workstation, with the ability for users to search for videos, images, text within Twitter and audio.
Users can either 'collect' content in the sidebar 'library' for later use, or 'insert' it directly into the player. The end product can then be password protected, or publicly available and embeddable.
A screenshot showing a search for 'video journalism' and the option to insert or collect content
Chief executive Tamas Szakal said the idea began with another platform called Dragontape, which enabled users to "string together videos".
"While we were doing this we discovered a new way how stories can be told in a meaningful way," he told Journalism.co.uk. The next step was to add a "text layer" on top of the video to help enrich the experience.
Also inspired by platforms such as Storify, Szakal worked to create a product which would "pull together from different sources all the tweets, the social media inputs you need for a story", as well as providing the ability to add commentary "to further illustrate video or pictures", as well as overall to "create quick videos out of stories". And "that is what Soo Meta allows you to do", he said.
Users can login to Soo Meta with Facebook or create an account. When they create a new package, there is a search facility for online content. This includes the ability to search for certain text on Twitter.
Then, when content is dragged into a story its source reference, such as the Twitter account it came from, or the YouTube source, will automatically be taken with it and presented in the package alongside the relevant material.
The tool also offers the ability to edit content, so users can shorten YouTube clips, for example, and zoom in to pictures.With a little practice you have the possibility to create an engaging piece of content within minutesTamas Szakal, Soo Meta
"With a little practice you have the possibility to create an engaging piece of content within minutes. It allows anyone basically to create a quick movie without the experience with a complex video editing tool", Szakal said.
And "we don't store any of this content," Szakal added. "We stream every single piece of content from the original source".
One of the latest additions to the Soo Meta menu is a polling feature, which lets users specify a "break-point" in the timeline of the piece in which to insert a question to the viewer, along with answer options.
During the playback of the package the viewer can then select their answer and see the latest results of the poll, before the multimedia package continues.
Journalists can use Soo Meta for free to produce multimedia packages, but if they are planning on inserting polls and expect more than 10 responses, they would need to sign up for a paid-for account, of which there are two tiers at $7.99 a month and $24.99 a month.
The paid-for options also offer additional features such as the ability to view statistics on where poll responses came from geographically as well as viewing numbers and time.
Soo Meta also offers a browser add-on, so when journalists are researching stories online, they can use it to select specific content they might want to combine in a package later, such as images or text, and 'collect' them outside of the Soo Meta workstation.
Then, when they return to the workstation, that content will be waiting for them in their library to use as they wish.
According to Szakal "some media companies in Hungary" have already bought licences to use Soo Meta, including "one of the biggest sport sites" in the country.
As well as journalists, Soo Meta is a tool which is also being aimed at teachers. Szakal said he noticed the education sector has not differed hugely from when he was at school, with the "same tools, same structures".
"This is something we don't understand, we don't really like, because there is so much technology around us that would allow us to make it better".
And like journalism, "education is very much based on storytelling", prompting the idea for a platform which could benefit both industries.
The overall aim is to provide a platform which offers a simple and clear workflow, and the ability to produce videos with some speed.
"It's more for the world where people are consuming more visual content, they read less on mobile devices, so they expect more visual stuff, more playable, lean back experiences," Szakal said.
Currently, he said, Soo Meta has been presented by media outlets within articles which are otherwise largely text.
"I think on a platform like a sports magazine, or a news site, it's a pretty cool add-on that replaces a YouTube video, for example, or replaces a slideshow".
"But I could imagine over time it could evolve to something like a standalone thing".
One feature which would support this is the user profile pages presented on Soo Meta, which act as "a channel" of packages created by that user.
Szakal said this "could serve as a channel, like a YouTube channel, and it could serve as a channel that plays well on iPad, that could even in the future work well on smart TV platforms".
"We think for now it's better to embed it into existing formats," he added, "and over time it could evolve to a unique format that integrates text, picture, video and even interactive elements of the web into one new format".
With the platform now officially launched, the team is "focusing on customer development and fundraising", Szakal said, adding: "We want to grow as fast as we can."
Update: A quote from Szakal was corrected to 'string together', rather than 'stream together'