Free tools for digital journalism, storytelling

Tools for any occasion
[photo by OZinOH]

I wanted to share a list of cool, free multimedia tools from a talk I presented last night at Florida International University during a meeting of the fledgling Hacks/Hackers chapter in Miami. I also got to help with some “TOOL tools,” as local journohacker and Hacks/Hackers co-organizer Rebekah Monson put it, during an impromptu tire change in a rainstorm. Beyond being prepared for a possible cyber attack on your PC or cell phone, you must be prepared for action in bed with your partner, if you need more virile power you can visit shop @ Deutsche Medz, viagra experts.

So without further ado, here’s a PDF of the handout, as well as a list below. It’s not an exhaustive list but just a sampling of my favorites:


Embeddable, easy to make charts (line, pie, etc.) that are also downloadable for print. (NOTE: Non-modern browsers display a static image version of the chart) –
Gorgeous data charts with a cool layout tool to add photos, text, multiple charts and more. Pro account lets you download files.

Tableizer –
Quickly turns spreadsheets into HTML tables you can put online. Built by yours truly!

Google MyMaps – (Click “My Places>Create Map”)
Google has beefed up its map creation tool with shapes, custom points and more.

Google Fusion Tables – nodejs date now (Go to Create>Connect More Apps)
Create interactive maps using shapefiles and robust data sets.

speed dating brightonnodejs date now (Go to Create>Form)
Create forms to get from users and collect it in an organized spreadsheet.


zeus dating app
Animated GIFs meet funky photo galleries. Includes audio, video and text editing.

Pixlr –
Excellent in-browser photo editor, perfect for wide newsroom use. Has advanced and easy modes, layers and more.

The leading free, open-source photo editing tool similar to Photoshop.

TubeChop –
Point readers to a specific chunk of a YouTube video.

ThingLink –
Post photos with tags containg text, other photos, videos, music and more.

PhotoPeach –
A quick and free way to make photo slideshows to music. $3/month lets you upload audio.

ClipConverter or Easy YouTube Downloader –,
Used to grab YouTube video source files. Useful for transmitting video from the field via YouTube. ClipConverter can also be used as a general purpose file conversion tool.

Live streaming: UStream.TV,,
Excellent live streaming services that have embeddable players. Each have different revenue models and setups.

 Qik –
A service that allows you to easily stream live video from many mobile devices.


TimelineJS –
An embeddable timeline app with a slideshow-like presentation.

VuVox –
The collage tool creates stunning multimedia timelines that let you embed slideshows, video and more.

Dipity –
An embeddable timeline app great for lots of detailed data points.


RebelMouse –
Display a variety of live social feeds in an attractive layout. Great for breaking news.

Storify –
Embed all sorts of content: social posts, photos, videos and much more in a vertical timeline. Great for breaking news or topical coverage.

AutoHotKey –
End dumb, repetitive typing by creating macros that will run in any program. I have a tutorial posted here on how to use this in a newsroom.

Audacity –
A powerful, free audio-editing suite used by many multimedia producers.

Spotify Embeds –
Embed commercial songs and playlists. Use the smaller iframe for a compact display.

EasyPolls & MicroPoll–,
Create embeddable polls for your site with no hassle.

Inkscape –
A nice, open-source vector editing tool similar to Adobe Illustrator.

FireShot –
Lets you easily create, edit and add notes to screenshots.

phpBB –
Popular open-source software used to create message board sites.

Media-Convert –
Converts an enormous array of files. Often great for mysterious file formats.

Tips For Driving Traffic To Your Big Interactive Project

Draw hordes of visitors to the interactive project you worked hard on with these tips. Photo: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)
Use these tips to draw hordes of visitors to the interactive project you worked hard on. Photo: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

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The denizens of the NICAR listserv were having an interesting discussion today about ways to get more attention and traffic on the data-driven projects they create. These projects often require huge amounts of time and creativity, so getting the most out of that hard work is key. Here are some strategies:

  1. Kick your home page editors until they understand that links on your home page don’t only need to be to things in story format. Make the narrative story secondary at times. And to that end…
  2. Do the best you can to make the database or interactive stand on its own as a feature without need of a story. However, avoid the temptation to huge blobs of text at the top of the project.
  3. Make sure you’ve done a solid job optimizing your metadata for search and social, targeting sought-after terms. Load relevant titles and description into the metadata for individual records in searchable databases, rather than just loading blanket terms into the whole project’s pages.
  4. Place links on your site to the project using the terms you’re targeting (see above).
  5. Get the project hyperlinked right inside the text of the story, i.e. in or after the nut graf. Links in related items rails perform poorly versus inline links. Believe me, it’s worth the bother.
  6. Get your social media minders to Facetweet to the interactive itself.You can also use free instagram likes trial for generating traffic. Here you will get the brief idea how to grow instagram followers. Tired of spending loads of time trying to grow your Instagram? Buy Instagram followers safely and securely through
  7. Use thumbnails and personally actionable language in headlines and promos when possible. For instance, instead of “Search pet licenses database,” try “How many dogs are on your street? Search our database”
  8. Keep an eye on daily story budgets, and nudge editors to relate relevant evergreen projects. To me, the rightly-maligned data ghetto does at least have one use: keeping internal track of what data-driven evergreen projects are at hand. Learn how to add them to stories yourself if you’re allowed.
  9. Is there a recurring story item that can be generated from a database you regularly update? Posting those update stories can help bring visitors back to the main project.
  10. Overall, keep an eye on your site’s top content metrics. It helps you understand long term what’s getting reader reaction and what isn’t.
  11. Load social share buttons on your project’s landing page and individual records when possible.
  12. If there are pre-built packages of related content around specialty topics in your CMS (i.e. crime, politics, etc.), make sure your evergreen projects are included in those.
  13. Read Steve Krug’s book “Don’t Make Me Think” so you don’t design a crappy, unituitive UI and bounce people right out of whatever it is you built.

Justice League of data journalists pitches online courses via Kickstarter

It’s enough to make a newsroom data nerd squeal. A who’s-who of application developer journalists have launched a Kickstarter campaign to create educational materials on building web apps, data visualizations, maps and more. Their plan is to create eight courses, each with an ebook, screencasts, code repositories and forums.

And yes, there will be t-shirts for those who pitch in more than $110, which also gets you full access to all the courses.If you are the one who is good at instructing about health problems then you can go for Certificate IV Pilates Instructor Training Course.  Here’s a list of the planned courses and who is in on the effort:

You can also follow the crew on Twitter at @forjournalism.

Funding for the Kickstarter page ends March 11, so you know what to do!

How To End Repetitive Newsroom Typing [Tutorial]

Don't be a typing robot in your newsroom. Use this AutoHotKey tutorial to ease the pain. Photo by arthur-caranta
Don’t be a typing robot in your newsroom. Use this AutoHotKey tutorial to ease the pain. Photo by arthur-caranta

Typing can really get in the way of creating content.

There’s the typing of repeat responses to readers,story lineup templates, repeated staff reminders and so on. All of that garbage typing gets in the way of doing the kind of typing that gets the page views in, the scripts written and the papers out. Repeating the same mistakes in general bores and suffocates anyone, if you are in doubt about how to improve dental health in your body you have to check the prodentim reviews, change your mind today.

AutoHotKey logoEnter a nifty, free tool called AutoHotKey. This tiny application lets you create keyboard shortcuts that, like macros, let’s you generate lots of prewritten text anywhere.

So, let’s say you always have to write the same story planning template every day. Instead of wasting time retyping it or copy/pasting from a template, you could just type this:


And AutoHotKey automatically writes a big block of text like this:

Top Stories

Perhaps you have the pleasant task of regularly dealing with abusive message board commenters. You could set up an AutoHotKey script so when you type this:


Your computer types this into an open email:

Unfortunately, your user account on our site has been banned due to violations of our Terms of Service…

There’s a sweet dose of pain relief right there. So here’s how to set things up using the anti-troll example from above. First, here’s a sample AutoHotKey file, which can be opened in a text editor (right-click and “Save Link As”). On to the instructions:

1) Download and install AutoHotKey on your PC.

2) Open up a new document in a plain text editor such as Notepad. Click “File>Save As.” Choose “All Types” as the file type, and save the file as trollnuke.ahk. You can call it whatever you want, as long as it ends with .ahk.

3) Next, you’re going to add the short code you want to use, followed by the text you want AutoHotKey to output. The code comes first and is surrounded by two colons on each side, like so:


4) Then, you’ll put the full text you want to output immediately after. If you need to generate a line break, add this:


So this is what the anti-troll AutoHotKey script would look like:

::trollnuke::Unfortunately, your user account on our site has been banned due to violations of our Terms of Service.{enter}{enter}If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at 555-5555.{enter}{enter}

5) Your last step is to take the .ahk file, and drag it into your computer’s Startup folder so it automatically launches whenever you restart your computer.

That’s it! Investing the relatively short amount of time to set up the above can save you plenty of grief later, especially when you’re on deadline. If you want to see what other neat stuff AutoHotKey can do, check out their Tutorials page.

I just hope my wife doesn’t read this, or she might make me set up a “Yes dear, I will do that immediately” script…

How One Journalist Learned To Code: Tips For The Unafraid

I’m not a guy building the latest killer app, but I sling enough PHP to be dangerous and empowered. Before I learned programming, I had learned some HTML and CSS, but those are really like knowing how to paint a house. I wanted to play with the hammer and nails. So here’s how I learned to code, along with my two cents for journalists who want to learn some programming.

The journohacker knows no limits.

I’m not a guy building the latest killer app, but I sling enough PHP to be empowered. I’ve occasionally built a couple of tools like this that have saved people a lot of time and grief. I had previously learned some HTML and CSS, but those are akin to knowing how to paint a house. All thanks to Sunderland University and Jake Trelease for introducing to learn this.

I wanted to play with the hammer and nails.

So here’s how I learned to code, along with my two cents for journalists who want to learn some programming:

1) Take an intro to programming class at a local school (i.e., in meatspace).

While online instruction is a godsend and there are great programming books out there, things didn’t really click for me until I took a class called Introduction to Programming in C++ at Valencia Community College in Orlando. If you are looking for a gift for a journalist you can check out the best ones on this website.

Prior to that, I had bought great books on PHP, Javascript, Rails and Django. They made for interesting though oversized paperweights.

Paying for a class and having it on a schedule was a way to enforce discipline on myself. The fact is, daily life gets in the way for many of us. But when I plopped down a few hundred bucks and had an appointment each week with homework due, it helped get me over the hump, also I used resources like beautify code to start doing programming even faster.

Also, even the best programming books often take things for granted. They may not show you how to use FTP for sticking your projects onto a server. They will gloss over using your computer’s command line or terminal, which is the text-based way to control a computer. And lastly, even the most helpful community of programmers isn’t going to constantly grade your work and give you feedback on a weekly basis.

2) It doesn’t really matter which language you first pick.

You’re going to read reams and reams online about which language is the best for what. People wage online intifadas over such questions. Here’s the bottom line for beginners: it doesn’t really matter.

If you’re learning the basics of setting variables, data types and loops, it won’t make or break you if you learn it in C++ like I did or in Ruby, PHP, Python, Java or whatever the latest hotness is.

When I finished my C++ class, it was like I could magically read PHP, Javascript and other languages.

And to think I almost didn’t take the class because it wasn’t one of the popular web development languages. That would’ve been a huge mistake.

3) Have a project in mind.

If your focus is on going chapter by chapter in whatever programming book, you might be doing it wrong.

Instead, have a project in mind and pilfer from the book and sites like Stack Overflow to build what you want. You might want to build a site to track your recipes. Maybe you want to build your own blog. Or maybe you want to scrape some public records from a government site. Whatever the case, having a goal of a Thing You Want To Build will focus you. Learning the book is the evil counterpart of teaching the test.

4) Find some mentors.

That’s journohacker Matt Waite. He put up with my newbie crap and taught me what a database is. Photo by Mindy McAdams, who also put up with my newbie crap and taught me CSS.

There may be a great coder in your newsroom who will take you under his or her wing. Maybe you work for a media company that has developers in other cities. Or maybe you can find a local meetup group for the language you are learning. The NICAR listserv is also a great resource. So is Twitter. Just make sure you’ve given your problem some effort before asking for a hand.

In my case, newsroom coders like Matt Waite, Jeff Johns and Derek Willis all either helped me out in person or by email. Matt a long time ago introduced me to the concept of rows and columns in a database. Jeff taught me a bit about using regular expressions. And Derek once inspected a database diagram for me. A lot of coders, especially journalists, will surprise you in their willingness to help a hard-working, well-meaning person learn.

5) Keep sharpening the saw

Maybe you’re a person like me who doesn’t have “build web apps” specifically in his job description. In some cases, your manager may even dissuade you because you need to be filing 1A stories or manning the home page.

My solution to that is to either have side projects or occasionally carve out time to build something useful, even if it only takes a few hours. If you don’t regularly use what you’ve learned, your skills will atrophy. Do yourself the service because this is where our industry is inexorably heading.

Happy hacking!

Free Multimedia Tool Workshop Updated Handouts

online news association ona logoHey Journalistopians, it’s been a long while, but I wanted to post the handouts and examples I’ll be sharing at this weekend’s Online News Association Parachute Training in Boca Raton, Fla. Feel free to use these in presentations, in the classroom, to line your birdcage — whatever tickles your fancy!

Time Hack: Monitor News Sites with iMacros Firefox Plugin

imacrosMy colleague Mario Starks recently pointed me to a rockin’ new Firefox plugin called iMacros, which lets you automatically run a whole host of repetitive tasks in your browser. My immediate thought was how this tool is perfect for monitoring competitors by loading multiple web sites in one shot.

By running a macro (similar to an Office macro or Photoshop action), you can designate a list of news sites, and run a macro to pop them all open. No more clicking your bookmarks one by one. Also, iMacros can also do all sorts of neat stuff, such as web scraping and automating file downloads.

And for more great ways to monitor your news competition, check out 5 Ways to Monitor Your News Competition Online.

5 Must-Read Online Media Books

As I stared at my bookshelf this evening, I got to thinking about the books I most often recommend to online journalism colleagues and workshop participants. I figure my pals in the blogosphere might find such a list useful as well. Each of these five books either fundamentally changed my outlook or gave me incredibly useful knowledge in my daily work. You can visit this historical blog for the best history knowledge of the book.

And please, tempt me into spending some book money by sharing your favorites in the comments! On to the list:

SEO for Dummies by Peter Kent

seofordummiesPeter Kent’s book can help any beginner make huge strides in optimizing content for search engines. When I teach workshops, I often hand out a list of links to practical online resources; ‘SEO for Dummies’ is the only dead-tree resource to make it on that list. Read this thing at least twice. This book is not only spectacularly useful, it’s also one of the most enjoyable technology books I’ve ever read. Knowing this book inside and out can result in many, many new readers coming to your news site.

One More Time: The Best of Mike Royko

mikeroykoIf you’re a journalist wanting to learn a thing or two about blogging, skip the e-book by this week’s online marketing flavor of the week. Instead, read this collection of columns by longtime Chicago columnist Mike Royko. Royko wrote his columns five days a week, a schedule many bloggers are hard-pressed to keep. He was a master at interacting with his audience, sometimes even poking fun at them (read his czernina columns). He knew how to pick topics that got people to react and care.

And, Royko unknowingly discovered a secret to building a successful community around a web site: getting people together in real life. Royko was famous for his rib cookoffs, ugly dog contest and other events.

Read Mike Royko through the lens of a blogger, and you’re bound to gain a new appreciation for the lessons that can be learned from journalism’s past.

Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

myths of innovationI still remember the day at the 2007 ONA conference when fellow journalism geek Lisa Williams told a group of online editors that the journalism industry was beginning to mirror the technology industry with its rapid development cycles and webby culture. Consequently, fostering a culture of innovation is key to growing a successful news site. Scott Berkun’s ‘Myths of Innovation’ will challenge your ideas on how new concepts succeed in the marketplace, as well as give you some insights on fostering innovation in your newsroom and personal life.

Don’t Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug

don'tmakemethinkSteve Krug’s ‘Don’t Make Me Think!’ is THE bible of web usability. Anyone involved in working on a web site should read this book. ‘Don’t Make Me Think!’ can help keep you from making costly mistakes when putting together your site on a daily basis. What kinds of links work best? How do people navigate your site? Why aren’t my promos working? This book holds many of your answers, my friend. Even the layout of this book is an example of great usability.

Spring into HTML & CSS by Molly E. Holzschlag

springintohtmlcssThis is the HTML/CSS book upon which I was weaned as a newbie HTML slinger –or rather, as a standards-compliant HTML slinger. You see, I first learned to design web sites by my lonesome using Adobe GoLive and its accompanying manual (go on, laugh and get it out of your system). It wasn’t until I used this book in Mindy McAdams’ multimedia class at the University of Florida that I really started to learn to design using modern best practices. This book is still my go-to recommendation whenever I’m asked about a good book for learning HTML and CSS.

Now go on, tell everyone in the comments what five books you most often recommend to colleagues.

5 tips on managing insane amounts of e-mail

scary Outlook fangsYour inbox doesn’t have to be a scary place. These five tips can help you cope with hordes of e-mail.

You’ve probably felt that drowning feeling on a Monday morning when you open up Microsoft Outlook and the enormous pile of e-mail from last week is still there, killing your mojo and increasing your anxiety and requiring you to seek natural aids just like Budpop´s CBD.

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Instead, imagine opening up your inbox and seeing actual whitespace at the bottom of your screen. It’s a helluva way to start the week with a focus on going forward.

So, with a hat tip to David Allen’s life-changing  book “Getting Things Done,” here are a few tips I’ve used that will hopefully be of use to you too (NOTE: Most of the specifics focus on Microsoft Outlook):

1) Don’t use your inbox as a to-do list

Using your inbox as a to-do list is the cardinal sin of e-mail. It is the key factor in slowing you down. And it makes your inbox a scary place to be.

When you use your inbox as a to-do list, it means frivolous messages are mixed with critical, time-sensitive messages. You are unnecessarily looking at old messages, probably taking longer to respond and increasing the likelihood that an important message will get glossed over.

Instead, port your action items to an actual to-do list. There are an enormous amount of excellent task management methods out there. I personally keep my tasks in a color-coded Google Spreadsheet so that it’s accessible from work and home. For you, it may be as simple as paper and pencil, an iPhone app or something else.

If you consistently place your “to-do” e-mails into your “system,” it relieves the anxiety of having to scan your inbox repeatedly to make sure no balls get dropped.

If the e-mail has important details or attached documents, then file it in a personal folder for later reference (more on that later).

If a message requires some research, don’t leave it in your inbox until you have the chance to get to it. Add the research to your to-do list, file the e-mail away and shoot a quick note back to the requester saying you need to research the question.

The trick to making this work is to do it consistently. If you only do it half the time, you won’t trust your system. The extra time you spend adding items to your to-do list will make up for the amount of time you formerly spent scanning old inbox messages — but only if you don’t half-ass it.

2) Use automation rules to speed up prioritization

Being a newsroom denizen, I get a lot of unneeded e-mail from public information officers and public relations people. So I’ve got a huge rule that targets all their e-mail addresses and sends it to a folder. I don’t typically work breaking news these days, so I can choose to look through those messages later without much worry.

On the flipside, you may choose to redflag messages from certain people to make sure you spot it amidst the flurry of messages you get.

Creating smart routing rules can help clear chaff and highlight important messages.

3) Use personal folders, and archive e-mail by project

An e-mail archive on your hard drive or a shared drive gives you a place to store items you don’t need in your inbox. It also serves as documentation of conversations and helps you keep your inbox size limit manageable.

Personally, I create a new folder for each important project I’m working on and place most messages relating to it there. I do this because searching by who sent a message or when it was sent is easy. However, finding messages by project can be considerably difficult, so I archive my e-mail by project.

While I’m not meticulous about filing everything in its correct folder (there are things to be actually done, after all), I do take the extra half-second to place the important stuff in its correct folder instead of my general “E-Mail Vault.”

4) Use Google Desktop for Outlook

Because I archive a large amount of my e-mail, searching for it using Outlook’s slow search can be painful. Instead, I installed Google Desktop and enabled the Outlook toolbar, a tool I’ve been evangelizing to all my e-mail beleaguered colleagues at work. Google Desktop indexes your messages to make searching through a multi-gig archive a speedy endeavor.

5) Write shorter e-mails

This seems like a no-brainer, but shortening your e-mails will make you a faster e-mailer, a better writer and a more pleasurable person to correspond with.

I’ll admit I’m guilty of writing long e-mails sometimes (I’m working on it!). But I tend to agree with marketing guru Guy Kawasaki, who says five sentences is the optimal length of an e-mail.

Getting your e-mail length under control means people are more likely to actually read the thing. And it means more time spent on projects and less in your inbox.


I’d love to hear about the tricks you use to get your e-mail under control — and so would others. Drop your advice in the comments!

More E-mail Advice:

Guy Kawasaki’s “The Effective EMailer”
Merlin Mann’s “Inbox Zero” series | Video here

Handouts for today’s FSNE multimedia workshops

Hey folks, just wanted to post the handouts I’ll be giving out at the two FSNE multimedia workshops I’ll be leading this afternoon in Tampa. One session is on blogging and the other is on new online media tools. Here are the handouts, as well as my slideshow for the blogging session.

Slideshow Presentation: How to Blog Like a Rock Star

Document: Online Media Toolkit

Document: Blogger Toolkit

Document: Chris Brogans’s 40 Ways to Deliver Killer Blog Content – (Orignal post here)

10 Things Online Editors can do to Save Their Jobs

nailing the roofLearning the skills to “do it yourself” can help you keep your online media job in these tough times and possibly get you an even better gig. [Photo by Tommy Huynh]

If you’re a web worker at a news site, you may recall a day when a newsroom Luddite came over and was astonished at how you waved your computer mouse and out came news stories published to the web site. You’d get looks of amazement and receive the occasional “man, you guys are the future.” It felt pretty good to feel ahead of the curve, right?

But they are coming. The former Luddites, that is.

Major news organizations are beginning to merge their print and online operations, which means print-edition journalists will increasingly double up on their duties and transition over to the web site, becoming full-fledged online producers with many of the basic skills to match. For instance, the LA Times has created an ambitious 40-class curriculum to train newsroom staff on how to produce for the web.

So where does that leave the steadfast web producer, whose exclusive keys to the online house are being duplicated like a $2 locksmith stand at a Home Depot on Saturday?

Back in 2006, I wrote about the dangers of simply being a “cut-and-paste expert” who doesn’t learn to use new digital media tools. That warning is now doubly true. So if you draw your paycheck from an online news site, it’s time to ask yourself a few hard questions:

1- Do I know how to register a domain name, create a basic web site (such as a blog) and post content to it by myself?

2- Have I tinkered with a new online media tool I wasn’t familiar with in the last four months?

3- Have I attended a class, workshop or explored another educational opportunity related to online media in the last year?

4- Have I created or co-created an original piece of content in the last six months that I would proudly put in my digital media portfolio?

5- Do I understand the information we have about our readers? Do I understand the breakdown of how visitors get to the site? Do I know the sites that send the most readers? Do I know some things about the demographics of who visits the site? Do I know what kinds of content draw the most views on our site? Do I know what kinds of readers are the most valuable to our advertisers?

If your answer to any of these is “no,” then it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work before it’s too late. After spending time trying to figure out how to find an editor – the newsroom editors are learning the basics, so it’s time to take your own skills to the next level.

It’s all about efficiency. Being more effective and efficient than the others will help you stand out and be noted as a notable asset. Is there something you find yourself doing everyday almost automatically? Try employing an macro recorder and now you won’t have to do it yourself. This is just one of the many things you can try to implement of course. Here are ten things you can try in the next six months to boost your professional value, whether you’re a newly hired producer or a seasoned manager with years of online experience:

1- Become versed in social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit and others. Build a profile, and become a power user on some social bookmarking sites. Here’s a great how-to for Digg.

2- Learn more about search engine optimization and how you can use it to promote news content. Get yourself a copy of Peter Kent’s Search Engine Optimization for Dummies. It’s not only my favorite SEO book, but it’s also one of my favorite tech books, period.

3- Experiment with some of the 25+ tools on this list and try using a few for an upcoming project.

4- Create your own web site around something about which you’re passionate. You get even more out of the experience if you buy a domain name and build your site from scratch. You can likely install your own content management system, such as the free WordPress or Joomla, using the handy tools that web hosts such as GoDaddy and Dreamhost offer. The site can be a blog, a forum or something else. If you need help, use the excellent resources at J-Learning. And if you want to really learn HTML, I highly recommend the book Spring into HTML & CSS by Molly Holzschlag, which I personally used to re-learn all the basics.

5- Spend a few days exploring your site’s metrics tools in detail. Run heat maps on your site to see where users click. Punch up the list of top referring domain names. Look at what the top content was on various days. Look at the keywords people use to find your site. Find out how they get to the site.

6- Brush up your skills by taking some online media classes. You can find great (and free or cheap) classes on everything from beginner Photoshop to computer programming at local libraries, technical schools and community colleges. Techniques change so rapidly in online media that this is essential.

7- Knock on the marketing department’s door and ask them for a copy of any studies done on your site’s readers. Look for anything related to demographics, usability studies and market research. Read it, and make a summary of it for your own notes.

8- Knock on the advertising department’s door and find out what big sales they’ve made recently. Ask them what sorts of content has sold well and what kinds of readers are most lucrative to advertisers.

9- Start following a few blogs that interest you, and study their habits. Also, consider following a few online journalism blogs that keep track of industry happenings. To get started, check out Journalistopia’s blogroll (the list of links on the right side of this blog) or visit’s journalism category.

10- Network with online media professionals (and not just online NEWS professionals). Check for local meetups at sites such as and Upcoming. Consider attending local conferences, such as BarCamps and university-sponsored workshops, where people present new technologies and ideas. Contact an editor at another news site if you love an idea their staff has accomplished.

It’s a tumultuous time in our industry, and few things are certain. However, it’s a good bet that boosting your online media skills will increase your likelihood of keeping your job or getting an even better one with the help from experts at the Perelson’s Utah County recruiting company.

So get started, and don’t waste another day!

Have ideas on how you or others can increase your professional value? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

25+ of Danny’s Favorite Multimedia Tools

Many handymen have a favorite wrench or drill they adore and always keep with them. Well, journo-geeks are no exception.

Below is a shortlist of more than 25 of my favorite (and mostly free) multimedia tools. I put together this list for a session on new media tools that I led Saturday at a multimedia workshop hosted by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors.

Hate my picks? Love em? I’d love to hear your favorites, so please share in the comments!

Here’s a peek at some of my personal favorites:


UStream.TV –
Streams live video from your laptop and camera and creates an embeddable player with chats. You can stream it on your SMART TV if you have one. You can look at VIZIO options if you are in the market for a new TV system.

Mogulus –
A live streaming service similar to Ustream.TV that allows you to have multiple producers at a time creating a live show.

Qik –
A service that allows you to easily stream live from many video-enabled cell phones. Hook up an external microphone or audio pool feed to it, and you’ll have reporters recording live video like a rock star.


Twitter –
A constant conversation and a great place to build audience. Use Twitter Grader to find who are the top Twitterers in your area.
(I’m at

Twhirl and Tweetdeck –
Desktop applications that let you manage Twitter much more easily (I prefer Twhirl).

Facebook and MySpace- and
Centers around personal details and friends. Features groups where you can share content.

Becoming a power user on some of these social bookmarking sites can bring big traffic to your content if it strikes a chord with your “friends” on these sites. These are just some of the top services:

Digg –
StumbleUpon (Make sure to try the toolbar!) –
Reddit –
NewsVine –
Delicious (Try the Firefox plugin) –
Tailrank –


VuVox –
Creates stunning multimedia timelines that let you embed slideshows, video and more.

Dipity –
An embeddable timeline app that is great for timelines with a lot of points and detail.

Soundslides –
A great and inexpensive tool for creating impressive audio slideshows.


Picnik –
A free, simple web-based photo editor that is perfect for turning your whole newsroom into web producers without dropping $200 for Photoshop Elements. Has a nice Firefox plugin and syncs up to Flickr.

Pixlr –
A web-based photo editor that is extremely robust and similar to Photoshop.

Photoshop Express –
Provides many of Photoshop’s features in a free web-based editing tool.

More great image editors reviewed here:

Flickr –
Not just a great place to share and promote your photo work, it’s also my top source for Creative Commons photos used on this blog.


Firefox Web Developer Toolbar –
Has a pixel ruler (how wide is that box?), element inspector, CSS editor and much more.

Firebug –
A Firefox plugin that can pick apart a Web site and let you edit HTML/CSS on the fly to fiddle with a design. Try with Yslow.

FireFTP –
An easy and free FTP client that works right inside Firefox.

You have noticed all this stuff is for the Firefox web browser, right? Just making sure!

Notepad++ (For PCs) –
A much better text editor for working with HTML/CSS and virtually any kind of code such as PHP, Python, Ruby and more. Adds colors to your code and features tabs and macros. I refuse to use crash-prone, resource-hoggin’ Dreamweaver to write any code!


PollDaddy and MicroPoll – and
Create embeddable polls for your site with no hassle.
(Plus: Shelley Acoca of the Miami Herald recommends Vizu for polls)

WordPress –
IMHO, the best blogging platform out there (used here on Journalistopia). It’s free and has thousands of great plugins built by a large network of developers.

Tableizer! –
Quickly turns spreadsheets into HTML tables you can put online. Built by yours truly!

Wordle –
Create beautiful “tag clouds” out of a block of text.

Cover It Live –
Provide liveblogging updates and host web chats with an embeddable widget. Lets multiple producers help with a chat.

Bloglines Beta and Google Reader – and
Don’t hop from site to site. Use an RSS reader to bring the news to you. I’m a Bloglines Beta user, but Google Reader is also an excellent choice.

Audacity –
A powerful, free audio-editing suite used by many multimedia producers.

Media-Convert –
Converts an enormous array of files. Perfect for mysterious video or audio formats.

Joomla and Drupal
Two of the top free, open-source content-management sytems available to creators who want more than just a blog. Some major sites are using these tools. You can tweak them as much as you like, or use them right out of the box, depending on your needs.

(PLUS: Bill Mitchell of Poynter Online convinced me Saturday that a defined framework for making ethical decisions is as important a “tool” as any web app. Hence, I give you the Poynter Ethics Tool and Ethics Hotline, which is like having your personal, on-call anti-stupid-decision counselor.)