Richard Bach once said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” From CNN anchors to TNW contributors, those bound by the written word can always benefit from a leg up in the digital age. Here, we give you some of the best apps, tools, and communities for writers and journalists. Whether you’re suffering from writer’s block or en route to becoming the next BBC reporter, we promise: there’s an app for that.
F**k it, we'll do it live!
Our biggest ever edition of TNW Conference is fast approaching! Join 10,000 tech leaders this May in Amsterdam.
Live shots just got a whole lot easier. Bambuser’s live video streaming from your cell phone or webcam allows journalists to share their work via social media. Available from GooglePlay, web features like trending tags and international events enable this app to help live news go global.
Available as an app as well as a desktop service, Dropbox has saved the work—literally—of journalists and students alike since its inception in 2007. Creation of an individual folder that can be accessed with a username and password means that users can access this folder from any platform—and that loss of a laptop no longer means loss of work.
In the words of R. Burroughs, “It is tiny, but it is huge.” Available for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch on the iTunes App Store, iAWriter interacts with iCloud and Dropbox to store Writer documents and make them available on all devices. Features including Focus Mode and Certified Text Editing, plus the official site’s Writer Support network, allow users to focus on individual aspects of text, an editing process that’s decidedly painless.
Gone are the days of transcribing for one quote. iPad’s note-taking device allows journalists to tap one word from a portion of an interview to play back what they may have missed. Users can also share audio notes via email or transfer them directly to their laptops.
Available on the App Store and coming soon to Android, Viddy is a backpack journalist’s dream. An advanced camera, added visual and musical effects, and various transitions allow users to create their own video packages and upload them to social media. Co-founder and President JJ Aguhob created Viddy out of frustration, seeking to simplify the editing/uploading process. Anger management at its finest.
Much as we all pretend to be above Wikipedia…we’re not. That’s why Wikipanion, designed for iOS, offers direct access to Wikipedia servers, offering automatic search results while you type. For international authors, support and search/browse abilities are available in 75 languages. Fabelhaft!
Almost all writers have suffered from the “block.” With 60 sketches, 250 scene elements, and 600 text prompts, this Apple app offers prompt generators to keep juices flowing. And with text prompts available in online or offline mode, an Internet connection is no longer required.
Is sound social? Audioboo thinks so. Available across mobile and web platforms, this London startup enhances audio on the go, letting users add details including tags and locations and offering easy listening/sharing capabilities. Audioboo Plus is an annual 60 pound upgrade that allows users to post to Facebook Fan pages and be included on the Audioboo iTunes page. Those of the corporate persuasion can join Audioboo Pro, a separate offering that lets companies add multi-contributors to a single account and enjoy extended recording time, among other features.
Sketchy memory? A user network of more than 35 million shares your pain. Accessible from almost every device, Evernote allows you to capture anything from drawings to web clippings and make it searchable from your laptop, cell phone, or camera at your convenience. The result is a network that shares project notes, favorite websites, and story ideas, yielding happy news making.
Based out of the Knight Digital Media Center at UC Berkley’s Graduate School of Journalism, freeDive serves as a free, open source data-sharing tool. With built-in search and filter applications, tips for effective search results, database building techniques, and acceptance of tips on how to improve, this new tool has great potential.
Businesses have been using HootSuite to manage social media presence for years. HootSuite’s goal is to become a one-stop “dashboard” for all social media interaction. Its latest addition, Conversations, went live this week and is now available in beta version for the free, Pro, and Enterprise tiers of Hootsuite’s customer base. Already 5 million strong, its ability to update all social platforms with a single entry and schedule future postings makes it a journalist’s best friend.
21st century Tolstoys use Livescribe’s paper-based computing platform, centralized by its smartpen, to record what they write and synchronize written notes with the corresponding audio. Available from PCWorld and the App Store, Livescribe’s smartpens—the Echo and the Pulse—offer features including memory storage, built-in speakers, USB connectors, and OLED Display.
Journalists who need multi-platform sources need look no further than Storify. Users can type in a search prompt on any topic and sit back as Storify collects relevant info from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more to offer a range of media elements that help craft your story (a search for “Facebook Timeline” offers sources organized by each individual social platform, allowing me to move chosen sources into the main text). The team behind Storify is “building the story layer across social networks,” allowing users to gather sources the digital way.
Becoming a blogger has never been quicker. First released in 2003, the free, open source blogging tool is now the most widely used system on the Web. The ability to run multiple blogs from one installation, tag articles, and be on the lookout for grammatical errors makes it a tried and true mainstay. And as tech writer Erik Sherman explains, it is a tool that allows work to be dressed up or down to your heart’s content.
Editor’s Addition: Contently
We use Contently at The Next Web to organize our feature production schedule. It allows me to upload a selection of assignments for each weekend, and writers from various groups can then claim pieces from the pool or I can assign them directly. I can go over changes with the writer and see various revisions come in via the app, and even edit the piece in there before bringing it over to WordPress. If you’re a journalist or editor with contributors to oversee, it’s probably worth taking a look. – Joel Falconer
Aspiring reporters, look no further. A quick look at this online networking community’s homepage reveals job vacancies for a reporter out of BBC Afrique and a link to a toolkit on how to improve emergency journalism. This brainchild of the European Journalism Centre allows users to add multimedia, share their blogs, and join/create groups on relevant topics.
An initiative of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, KCNN helps citizen and professional journalists alike launch and operate community news and information sites. Free resources, including learning modules to improve user content and sources for research on citizen media behavior, help aspiring newsmakers create their own stories with the help of working professionals.
Co-founded by former Facebookers Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever in 2010, Quora users can upvote or downvote submitted answers to questions on almost any topic. Alongside Quora’s own algorithm for ranking the best answers, users also have the power to suggest edits to answers offered by their peers. An official iPhone app was released in September of last year.
The power of Reddit is nothing new. What is relatively new is turning to Reddit as an original news source. Colorway reported earlier this month that despite claims to the contrary, more and more journalists are using Reddit to gather ideas from the site that gets more than three billion page views per month. The result is Reddit Edit, a more polished presentation of categorized news headlines that seeks to court media skeptics—although that number is decidedly dwindling.
Primarily a content production platform, Skyword offers writers the chance to create content for various brands and receive bi-weekly payment in the process. Their newsletter links to online conversations on topics such as how to handle critique and features monthly spotlights with “Skywriters” to find out what makes them tick.
We’re well aware of the power of Twitter, but not all Tweets are re-Tweeted equal. The website’s blog offers insight into how the platform can be used most effectively to share and promote content. A post published last week (http://blog.twitter.com/2012/09/best-practices-for-journalists.html) outlines four simple strategies for how news outlets and individual authors can increase follower growth and engagement. And if you’re still seeing red after last Sunday’s Patriots/Ravens game, this post (http://blog.twitter.com/2012/09/nfl-week-3-onlyontwitter-edition.html) highlights how hashtags and trending topics spread through constant interaction.
They don’t come more collaborative than this. Founded in 2008 to connect journalists online, the brainchild of Howard Owens, Zac Echola, and Ryan Sholin hosts various groups, forums, and headlines for digital writers to use and share information with their peers on topics ranging from bilingual journalists to those who support facial hair awareness.
Image Credit: Michael Springer/Getty Images