April 30, 2018

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.

When the needle flies off the analytics dial for Poynter.org, a few likely culprits come to mind.

When we’re not getting Drudged or writing about AP Style changes, the most frequent source of any unexpected spike is Reddit.

This trend has tracked for the last decade or so of my career and across various student and professional newsrooms. I’ve spent a disparate amount of time trying to find ways to capitalize on it.

Of course, we’ve learned (or some of us, at least) over the last decade that chasing spikes is an unsustainable way to approach traffic. It’s better to build a smaller, loyal audience that visits a site with frequency than it is to chase viral stories.

But news organizations like the Washington Post have proven that real audience engagement is possible on Reddit. Though the Post’s primary goal with Reddit isn’t to drive traffic, it often does.

Perhaps more important (and rare) is the honest-to-goodness opinion-changing the Post accomplishes on the site — just about every comment I’ve seen from them is followed by a comment from another user complimenting their work and transparency. It’s uncanny in the best possible way, especially when public trust in journalism isn’t doing so well.

Taking a cue from the Post and others, I set up Crowdtangle (free and available to anyone who publishes original content) to alert me via email and the whole team via Slack every time a user posts a Poynter article to any subreddit (for the Reddit uninitiated, a subreddit is a sort of channel focused on a specific topic). If you’d like to copy our Crowdtangle settings, here they are.

Reddit Crowdtangle settings

Now we always know when someone has shared our work on Reddit and can jump in to say hi, add context and toss out some questions. There’s probably an easier way to do it, but it works for us. Keep in mind that this just a starting point to make the most of Reddit. The Post's commendable results mostly come from audience editor Gene Park's time, dedication and voice. 

If you do decide to do this for your site, let me know how it goes.

VERIFIED NEWS: A lot of news organizations are working on that whole trust thing. One of the more innovative approaches I’ve seen comes from a new organization and app called Ground. The app monitors social media and, using some pretty intense AI, asks Ground users who are near what it identifies as breaking news events to verify those events. “Up until now it’s been a very big ask” to get individual people to verify news, one of the founders told me. With Ground, “it’s easy enough to say yes it’s happening or no it’s not or flag things.” I’ve been testing it for a couple weeks in a limited capacity and dig it so far, especially the map view.

DEADLINE: Here’s your friendly reminder that Storify is closing in 16 days. If you want to save an old Storify (or transfer it to another site like Wakelet, which has a handy import tool) now is the time.

SHARE THIS AUDIO: Audio doesn’t get a fair go on the social networks. While video flourishes, even getting a bump from the algorithms, no major social network even allows users to upload audio. So how do all of those podcast producers and keepers of raw and moving soundbytes (think police dispatch audio and protest noises) share their work? I think turning it into an audiogram is the answer. And one of my favorite audiogram tools, Sparemin’s Headliner, got a big update since the last time I shared it here way back in October.

FRAIL MAIL: This email will self-destruct in 10 seconds. Not really. But it could, were I sending it with the new and improved Gmail. In addition to the new features I wrote about in this newsletter a few weeks ago, the updated inbox also includes self-deleting emails and nudges from an AI to answer emails it thinks are important. You can enable the new inbox on your personal account by tapping the settings gear at the top right of the page and selecting “Try the new Gmail.” Those of us who have work accounts will have to wait a bit.

GET SOCIAL: Sree Sreenivasan’s social media tips have made the rounds more than a few times. But they came across my timeline a few days ago and it seemed like a good time to pass them along. The ones that really stuck with me were:

  • Look at your tweets through eyes of your bosses.
  • Be an early tester, late adopter.
  • Log off and read a book!

FROM POYNTER: Sorry for the late notice, but tomorrow I’m holding a free course on how to use a tool that has absolutely blown my mind this year. Upload an audio file to Descript and it generates a text transcript. Edit that transcript in Descript’s editor tool and it will automatically edit the audio file. Then transfer that file to Audacity, Adobe Audition or your audio tool of choice, or export it and upload it to the internet.

We also just launched round two of Table Stakes, a powerful series to help newsrooms develop better digital publishing strategies and update their cultures to match. Since you're reading this, I'm sure you're digitally savvy. This program can help you bring the rest of your newsroom up to speed. It starts with a series of online training sessions that will share lessons from our first 20 news organizations to complete the project. If you’d like to join the full program, participating in the online series is mandatory.

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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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