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Cowbird launched on December 8, 2011 and immediately became a place for people from the Occupy Wall Street movement to share their stories. Last year National Geographic used the website to help residents from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to tell their stories. It’s easy to see why it would appeal to National Geographic as it allows you to tell stories with strong images. A few weeks ago it was announced there is now an embed option, allowing you to place your stories on most websites.

In practice

I uploaded a photo and told a small story. Cowbird has a freemium model so one image is the maximum you can upload without paying $60 to become a “citizen”. Other advantages of being a citizen is the ability to link stories and further customise your stories such as adding your own handwriting, adding hyperlinks, changing the colour palate and further interacting with the community. But there’s nothing to stop you putting different stories in parallel in one post, but if you wanted to use the platform to collect other people’s stories around a subject then you’d have to pay. Although the embed (below) is nice,  on Cowbird the story fills the screen and has a stronger impact.

The share (or “retelling”) facilities are pretty easy for Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr. Although, as with many inbuilt autopost functions they don’t embed natively to their platform or tag properly. I found it nicer to just use the embed function on my Tumblr page for example.

How it helps you

The stories that you can create are best accompanied by strong photo stories. You can also embed audio so there’s nothing to stop you from telling media rich stories. If you do decide to opt for citizenship then this could all be built into the platform and the multipage option would allow you to tell longer stories, even comic strips or data stories.


All the best functions come at a price. The embed function is good but the mobile interface is less appealing. Although this is probably not the central aim of this site, it would be difficult to collate a breaking news story, as this requires citizenship.


A intriguing way to tell multimedia stories without learning any HTML.