While technology continues to wreak havoc with our business (walk down the hallway and talk to your colleagues in sales about digital ad rates), one benefit is the wealth of tools and devices that make reporting stories and covering communities easier and more robust than ever.
The best part of going to conferences such as ONA and South by Southwest isn't learning about risky business ventures masquerading as digital cure-alls, or hearing the same, tired speeches about the need to deepen engagement with our readers (if we were any more engaged, we'd be planning a wedding). It's the offhand conversation you strike up with a slightly sauced-up reporter who can't stop raving about an app or hack that has freed up time to drink at a journalism conference.
I write a column like this once a year, and invariably it leads to journalists from across the country striking up a conversation about a cool new app or interesting tool they can no long do their reporting without. So, for the large majority of readers who don't have the time or money to trek to one of these tech meccas, here's a rundown of four cool apps that I lean on every day that might actually benefit you.
Aside from my hand-curated Twitter lists and my obsessively sorted Tweetdeck, CrowdTangle is the most successful tool I'm using to generate interesting leads and potential story ideas. CrowdTangle is an analytics platform owned by Facebook (it's free, but sign-up is required) that tracks the social media performance of articles being shared in your city or town.
Many use it to see how wildly their own articles have been shared, but I've always used it to see the content created by other newsrooms that's trending on social media in my market created, which gives me good insight on how to figure out unique ways for stories to resonate with my readers. Mark Frankel, a social media editor for BBC News, recently turned me on to the platform's ability to track the activity on individual pages on Reddit and Facebook Groups, both public and private.
The simplest description possible is you set up a new dashboard, point it to Facebook Groups and subreddits you think are the most compelling and newsworthy for your particular beat, and it does the rest, alerting you when posts are over-performing and have a high interaction rate. It sounds simple, but it's a powerful deep dive into content you might otherwise have missed.
If CrowdTangle is indispensable to me for generating...