August 27, 2018

“Not sure if you saw my last email” is the most annoying phrase people use at work, followed by “per my last email,” according to a new email study of working-class Americans conducted by Adobe.

The study found that personal email use is up by 17 percent from this time last year, more than a quarter of those surveyed check their personal email from bed when they wake up and a whopping 85 percent check it before getting to work. What am I doing publishing this thing on a Monday afternoon?

We also appear to be hopelessly addicted to email. About 60 percent of those surveyed check personal email when watching TV, 40 percent admitted to reading emails in the bathroom and 27 percent are total antisocialites and glance at email while in mid-meal with others.

MEASURED UP: Chartbeat and Google Analytics never show the same amount of real-time visitors. Occasionally the numbers they share don’t even have the same number of digits in them. I always assumed one was installed wrong on our site, or they were measuring something completely different. It turns out the latter is true. Chartbeat pings users every few seconds. Google Analytics pings users when they move to a new page. Both tools have their place. Just know what they’re measuring.

CHART A COURSE: Crafting a good infographic is a lot like writing a good sentence. The simplest ones are often the most difficult to put together. Especially when every other infographic tool out there encourages whizbang colors, flashy interactivity and unnecessary complexity (not to mention pie charts). Kat Duncan breaks down a few of the better infographics tools for beginners for the Reynolds Journalism Institute, including Google Charts, Piktochart and Visme. Oh, and I managed to slap a few together for the Poynter Media Trust Survey using Infogram.

GET SOCIAL: Facebook is up to… good. Facebook Pages with large followings are requiring managers to go through a two-factor authorization process. This should defend against Page takeovers from ne’er-do-wells in search of quick followers. Pages will also become more transparent, showing any Page mergers that have taken place and listing the countries they’re being managed from. Good luck to those Macedonian teens running misinformation mills.

MACHINE LABOR: Another tool is shaking up the automatic transcription game. Otter is an iOS, Android and web app that offers 10 free hours of recording and transcriptions per month. It converts speech to text on the fly. It captures a sample of your voice when you sign up so that it can tag your voice when you’re speaking. Its transcriptions are searchable and shareable. It uploads recordings and can share them across multiple devices. Most importantly (noting that I haven’t run it through my full test yet), its transcripts are pretty good.

REACH OUT AND TOUCH BASE: My inbox is full of people I should have emailed months ago but failed to for one reason or another. Some have even been around since before this year’s Email Debt Forgiveness Day (which is, fitfully, the first link I ever shared in this newsletter). Harvard Business Review has some tips on how to connect with the people we left on unread, starting with acknowledging the absence of contact. Look for an email from me with the subject line “reconnecting” soon.

40 BETTER HOURS: Scroll. Scroll. Scroll. Like. Scroll. Comment. Scroll. Scroll. Hours pass and here you are, still tapping away at Instagram. Sound familiar? It’s how I spent my Sunday. But “time on Instagram should be positive, intentional and inspiring,” the latest app update reads, along with a note about three new features meant to make time on the visual social network more deliberate.

  • Your Activity: See your average time spent on Instagram on a device
  • Daily Reminder: Get an alert when you’ve reached the amount of time you want to spend on Instagram for one day
  • Mute Push Notification: Temporarily turn off the notifications that appear on your home screen

ON MY RADAR: Bear with me for a bit, because this gets a little nerdy, but there’s a new audio format out there that could change the way we experience movies, music, TV, live events and more. MPEG-H got its first big live test during the World Cup. A “3D” representation of the stadium atmosphere put viewers in Russia from wherever they were in the world, right along with the ability to personalize audio with either English or Korean commentary. Those who found the announcer a little annoying (you know the one) could dial him down and dial the atmosphere up. What’s this mean for journalism? Probably nothing for a few years at least. But, oh, the possibilities.

PROTECT YOURSELF: The New York University Tandon School of Engineering Cyber Journalism Award recognizes excellence in reporting on cybersecurity across journalistic categories. Andy Greenberg from Wired won last year for “Lights Out: How An Entire Nation Became Russia's Test Lab for Cyberwar.” Nominate great reporting about privacy and information security issues for a chance at prize money plus travel funds to attend. Told you I wouldn’t stop talking about digital security.

MEDIA WISDOM: Got a middle- or high-schooler in your life who needs a media literacy boost? MediaWise is a Poynter endeavor to help the youngsters (yeah, I’m old) be smarter consumers of news and information online. MediaWise mostly lives where teens live, places like Instagram, where I recently made my first appearance. I talked about, you guessed it, online security.

HOMEWARD BOUND: Another one, from me, is a quick look at how The New York Times’ homepage has changed over the past week or so. The TL;DR is that the changes align all of the Times’ digital homepages, set them up to share a wider variety of content and also open the door for personalization. And, yes, the homepage doesn’t show bylines anymore.

Try This! is 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 He was previously Poynter's digital tools reporter, chronicling tools and technology for journalists, and a producer for…
Ren LaForme

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