January 2, 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.

If you've been putting off things like learning how to use interactives in your stories, mastering that social network you’ve never understood or even just taking time to finally dig into Slack, make this the year you do it.

Do your diligence first, though. If you’ve been burned by too many failed changes, chances are good that you’re going to close yourself off to change in the future. 

There are 13 questions you should ask before adopting any new tool and four types of people you’ll need to win over to be successful. Get out there and put them into practice. 

Just maybe not today. The first workday of the year is already a wild ride.

GET SOCIAL: Even if getting better at social media didn’t quite make it to your list of New Year’s resolutions, it can’t hurt to make a few improvements. Mediashift offers 10 easy things that you can start doing right now, including posting fewer links, meeting audiences in person and creating social-only content.

MACHINE LABOR: You loved the automatic transcription tools I shared last year. Alex Norton from BBC News Labs offers four new ways to use them in the newsroom, including in video editing, solving unexpected problems and captioning. Of course, there’s always the traditional use of just making the robots and algorithms do the boring work for you. 

PROTECT YOURSELF: password. 123456. letmein. qwerty. It’s time for a change if you use any of those, or these other 96 words and phrases, as a password. They’re easily guessed, easily hacked and are potentially exposing your personal information to the world. If you’re using them on work accounts, it could be even worse. Maybe switch to long, easy-to-memorize phrases instead.

ROBOTS RISING: If I had a dollar for every time I’ve asked a colleague if we capitalize the “the” in “The New York Times,” I’d be rubbing elbows with Warren Buffet (and my colleagues would stop rolling their eyes). If only I had Amy the Stylebot as a colleague. Professors working in USC Annenberg’s newsroom created the Slackbot to solve their most common copy editing issues and shared some useful documentation about how she came together. I bet she never rolls her eyes at dumb questions. 

THE METRICS SYSTEM: A quick glance at the archives shows that I haven’t covered analytics at all in this newsletter. As one of the few categories of digital tools that affects all of us almost daily, that’s an oversight. So let’s get started. We tend to focus on pageviews and uniques to measure how well we’re doing. But it’s 2018 now, and that’s not the right way to go about things. We should really be measuring loyalty. Here’s how you can use the recirculation metric to measure it.

DO IT LIVE: Livestreaming tools like Facebook Live and YouTube are some of the most potent tools for journalists ever created. But with great power comes great, well, you know. There’s a lot to learn from Tim Pool, an “independent journalist” who mostly eschews the gatekeeping and context-building that most journalists do in favor of fully transparent livestreams. Pool has amassed more YouTube subscribers than NPR but has also given a platform to prominent far-right figures. 

PLAYTIME: Maybe your next project should take a cue or two from Monopoly. Research from American University found that interactive games can improve news engagement and understanding. The University also offers 10 tips for building a news game that are applicable to almost any project, game or not.

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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…
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