Storytelling tools: Five easy ways to create visual stories that can be embedded within a news story
1. Storify: A journalist favourite
No list of journalism tools would be complete without Storify. This tool allows you to drag and drop tweets, YouTube videos and other social media elements into a post and add explainers.
2. Datawrapper: An easy-to-use tool for creating charts which was built by journalists, for journalists
Datawapper is quick and easy to use. Simply copy a table from a spreadsheet, paste it into a box on Datawapper, and click a button to create an interactive chart. You can then copy and paste the iframe code to embed it.
3. ThingLink: For adding rich links to images
If you have a photograph or image that needs some explanation, use ThingLink to add links to media, such as Wikipedia, YouTube and Twitter.
Here's an example from German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost, which used ThingLink to add explainers to a photo of the situation room in the White House on the day Osama bin Laden was killed.
Follow this link to see how NME.com used ThingLink to add music references to a poster. There are also other tools which offer similar functionality, such as Taggstar.
4. Timeline JS: Turn a Google spreadsheet into an interactive timeline
Creating timelines using Timeline JS is a joy. It is as simple as entering date details, image URLs, and captions in a Google spreadsheet. The instructions are on this page.
Here's one we made as an example, which includes a Wikimedia Commons image, a Flickr image, a YouTube video and a Google map.
5. Tableau: For making interactive data visualisations
Tableau Public is a free tool for making interactive graphs and other visualisations that allow your readers to explore the numbers behind a story.
Here is one published by The Wall Street Journal.
6. Storyful MultiSearch: For fast social media searches
This Chrome app allows you to enter a keyword and search a range of social media platforms with a single mouse click. A series of browser tabs are opened and you can toggle through the results.
The open source tool was released at the end of August and has already had new search options added by the open source community.
7. WolframAlpha: A smarter search engine
WolframAlpha describes itself as a "computational search engine". What it allows you to do is enter a phrase or question and it will give you a collection of relevant information.
For example, I could ask "what was the weather in Islamabad when Osama bin Laden was killed?" The platform will compute the information and know that the event happened on 2 May 2011. The results also show what the weather was like on 2 May in previous years.
8. FollowerWonk: For searching Twitter bios
If you are trying find a potential source or contact on Twitter, this tool lets you search the information in people's bios. I might want to find a journalist in Poland, for example, or perhaps a lawyer specialising in employment law.
9. Topsy: A Google for Twitter
Topsy allows you to search every tweet going back to 2006. The 'search by date range' option is particularly useful. In the example below I searched for tweets mentioning Osama bin Laden between 1 and 3 May 2011 (he was killed on 2 May 2011).
10. TinEye: To help you find fake photos
TinEye lets you upload a picture or add an photo URL and see if that image has been previously shared online.
A great example was when a picture was circulated during Hurricane Sandy, purporting to show dramatic skies over New York. This post by Storyful explains how verification experts found it was a fake when TinEye enabled them to find an image of stormy sky taken in Nebraska in 2004. A hoaxer had simply doctored that image, adding the Statue of Liberty.
11. Banjo: An iPhone app for searching for people
Banjo lets you search for social media users at a particular location. Search terms then can be added to filter further. There is a great example from 2012 of a US news outlet using Banjo after receiving initial reports of an incident in a shopping mall. Journalists were able to see which social media users were close by and contact them.
Not got an iPhone? GeoFeedia allows you do similar searches online.
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12. iSaidWhat: A great audio option (£2.49)
This is a great iPhone app for recording audio. It's simple, saves files even if you get interrupted during a recording, and allows you to share audio over a wifi network or via USB.
13. FiLMiC Pro: An iPhone video camera upgrade (£2.49)
An iPhone app for recording video that offers manual control over sound, white balance, focus and exposure. (And one recommended by mojo experts Marc Settle and Glen Mulcahy)
14. Voddio: Turns your iPhone into an editing suite (free but you pay to unlock the sending functions)
Voddio lets you edit audio and video packages on your phone or iPad. It is much used by BBC 5 Live journalist Nick Garnett (aka 'the iPhone guy').
15. Bambuser: Livestream video from your phone (free)
Bambuser is not limited to the iPhone; it can be used on a multitude of devices. Simply open the app or mobile site, hit record and you are livestreaming.
You can add an embed into a news story if you want to broadcast that feed on your site.
16. SoundCloud: A community with which to share audio
SoundCloud is great for sharing audio interviews or podcasts. We use it here at Journalism.co.uk (and have notched up no fewer than 43,660 followers!).
The app is available for a range of devices and now lets you trim clips before sharing.
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17. Transcribe: A web app for making it easier to transcribe interviews ($20 a year)
If you regularly record interviews and transcribe quotes, do you often find yourself toggling between a text editor and an audio player? If so, Transcribe will save you time.
You upload the audio and write within the window below the player. When you hit 'escape' to pause and then again to play, the audio automatically rewinds a second or so, which is a real help when transcribing.
Transcribe is a Chrome web app, which also means you can use it offline. It was free until this week and there is now a $20 annual charge.
18. Cue: Your own private Google
Cue lets you search your own files. By linking accounts, such as Google Drive, LinkedIn, Dropbox, Twitter and Facebook, you can search for keywords.
In the example below I searched for references to 'Poland'. I found that I have four people, 104 messages, two events, nine files and 1,480 posts with a mentions of the term.
19. Ping.it: Google Alerts on crack
Recently launched Ping.it is not your average RSS reader. Users can either add a feed or simply set up keyword alerts, and then choose to only get notifications of those alerts if the keyword is in a story with a particular number of Facebook shares, likes or tweets.
Here's an example. If I want to find any news story mentioning 'Warsaw' or 'Poland' I can set up the alert. I can then further control the results by only getting alerts for stories mentioning Warsaw or Poland that have had more than 30 Facebook shares.
20. IFTTT: To connect the net and set up alerts
IFTTT stands for If This Then That. It allows you to connect various accounts, such as Facebook, Dropbox, email and SMS.
It can be used to set up alert systems, so you can receive an email (or a text message) when a particular event happens.
Here are two examples:
The first is an alert system for earthquakes, which uses an RSS feed from a geological survey. By connecting that RSS feed and your email, you get a message if a significant earthquake strikes in a particular area.
The second example is an alert for Instagram. Each time someone tags an Instagram picture #Warsaw, it is saved to a Google Doc.
If you are wondering why a journalist would want to monitor Instagram, pictures can be the source of stories. This feature explains how Instagram feeds the Boston Globe's journalism, including providing a story in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
And if you mix Ping.it alerts, which are delivered by RSS, and IFTTT, you can have those smart alerts emailed to you.
- The list was prepared for a presentation at a journalism conference taking place in Poland. The presentation is at this link.
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