October 9, 2017

This article originally appeared in Try This! — Tools for Journalism, our newsletter about digital tools. Want bite-sized news, tutorials and ideas about the best digital tools for journalism in your inbox every Monday? Sign up here.

Online audio is such an anomaly. It’s usually not searchable. It’s not easy to share. It almost never goes viral. And yet podcasts are bigger than they’ve ever been. A quarter of Americans listened to a podcast last month, and trends are on the rise.

So what would happen if those barriers fell? How much better (and bigger) could online audio get? Let’s start with two tools that aim to smash those barriers.

ON MY RADAR: When is the last time you listened to audio on Facebook or Twitter? If you’re like me, your answer might be … never. Enter: WNYC’s Audiogram Generator. Most social networks don’t allow users to upload audio-only files, so most audio has to live on sites like Soundcloud. Links to those sites shared on social networks aren’t native, so they usually don’t allow users to listen without clicking through. And, on Facebook, those links generally won’t perform as well as native video or live video because of Facebook’s mysterious algorithm. Audiogram Generator solves this by converting audio to video and creating a handsome waveform visualization that can all be uploaded to social. Let’s get those earworms out.

FIND IT: Most of the podcasts on regular rotation on my phone came at the recommendation of friends or from promos in other podcasts. I don’t think I’m alone in that. But sometimes you just want to listen to something new. Listen Notes is a podcast search engine that allows users to search by topic, from big things like Star Wars or economics to the more specific, like the Equifax hack or Tyrod Taylor’s botched offense on Sunday. Its founder, Wenbin Fang, indexed around 19 million podcast episodes to gather information. He said that podcasts are like the early web, that when search got good enough people stopped bookmarking pages, and that he thinks a good podcast search engine could change the way people listen to podcasts. I’ve already found two new shows. Give it a shot.

NEW TOOL, FOUR STEPS: There are all sorts of reasons you might want to download an image from Instagram. Maybe your organization launched a contest and you’d like a copy of the best submissions. Maybe you lost the original version of an image you posted. Maybe someone powerful posted something you think they may delete later. Instagram doesn’t make it easy to snag these images but, as usual, there’s a plugin for that. h/t again to Hannah Ulm

  1. Make sure you have a good reason to grab the image. It’s usually best to ask permission.
  2. Install the Instantgram plugin for Chrome.
  3. Save the image to your computer.
  4. Do whatever you’d like with it (with proper attribution, of course).

RIGHT CLICK SAVE: You made a powerful and effective interactive piece of journalism. It’s getting a lot of attention and changing people’s opinions and maybe even lives. You’ve done interviews with other publications and fielded thoughtful feedback from readers. Now what? Archive it. On the backend. Because, as Shan Wang writes here, “So many pioneering works of digital journalism no longer exist online, or exist only as a shadow of their former selves.”

PICTURE THIS: You don’t have to be a Photoshop wizard or even have an Adobe Creative Suite subscription to design effective images. There are great, easy-to-use tools that do the heavy lifting for you. Visage is one of the better ones out there for creating infographics, blog headers and social media graphics. The free account allows for three images a month, but paid accounts connect to Google Sheets and other services to build dynamic graphics for sharing.

CRUNCHING NUMBERS: Misinformation, misunderstandings and agenda-driven deception have worsened the HIV epidemic and led to discrimination and further infections in the United States. It doesn’t have to be this way. Through interactive maps and infographics, AIDSVu, a project from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, makes HIV data more available, more accessible and relevant to local audiences. Journalists who are covering the HIV epidemic can and should use AIDSVu data, graphics and maps to better inform themselves and their readers.

LAST WEEK: Twitter isn’t just a bunch of people shouting into the abyss. Well, it kind of is. But you can easily mine that abyss for golden nuggets with a combination of Twitter Advanced Search and Tweetdeck. I wrote about how to combine the two to create a powerful way to search for just about anything and make Twitter useful again.

This newsletter was published a little later than usual. That’s because I was at the Online News Association’s annual conference in Washington D.C. and was a little bit overwhelmed with all of the great stuff I learned and saw. I’ll share a roundup of the best tools, tips and digital goodies from the conference as soon as I’m done digesting. In the meantime, check out this guide to following a conference you’re not attending.

Learn more about journalism tools with Try This! — Tools for Journalism. Try This! is powered by Google News Lab. It is also supported by the American Press Institute and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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Ren LaForme is the Managing Editor of Poynter.org. He was previously Poynter's digital tools reporter, chronicling tools and technology for journalists, and a producer for…
Ren LaForme

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