July 23, 2018

GET SOCIAL: Snapchat has been against the ropes since Instagram copied (or, if you’re so inclined, stole) its innovative “Stories” feature in 2016. Without that popular exclusive feature, Snapchat struggled against Instagram’s more established userbase, longer list of features and superior navigation. But there’s one thing Instagram still doesn’t have: the Snap Map, which displays public snaps on a heatmap that’s searchable by location. It’s a potent tool for journalists searching for information, images and videos from breaking news locations. And now, that information and more is much more accessible for newsrooms, thanks to Snap’s partnerships with content discovery platforms NewsWhip, Storyful, SAM Desk and Tagboard.

OLD TOOLS, NEW TRICKS: It seems as though developers have been hiding away from the mid-summer heat and pushing out a lot of new code. Four great tools for journalism saw big updates this week.

  • Vox Media’s Chorus content management system, long heralded as a “next-generation publishing platform,” will soon be available to other newsrooms. The technology powers sites like Vox.com, The Verge and SB Nation, and includes tools that suggest times for social distribution, offer various layout changes and provide advanced metrics.
  • Sqoop, a search engine for public records and company information, added a feature to pair journalists with relevant sources. Sqoop Sources uses answers to 13 quick questions to identify potentially helpful experts.
  • Headliner, my favorite tool for making audio shareable, added three useful features. Users can now change the aspect ratios of projects (a great way to optimize for various social networks), choose from included stock photos or videos, and edit video directly in the Headliner timeline.
  • Nuzzel, a news intelligence company, has teamed up with Hootsuite, a social media management platform. Nuzzel will provide custom streams about topics and keywords on Hootsuite users’ dashboard, meaning users will be able to monitor social streams and top news in one browser tab.

GET PERSONAL: The New York Times knows an awful lot about me. They know my interests because of the newsletters I subscribe to and the articles I read. They know where I live. They can assume things about my income based on my subscription level. They know I am obsessive about their crosswords. There is a lot they could do with that information to make me a more satisfied and loyal subscriber, starting with these 10 effective ways news organizations can personalize their platforms.

STEAL THIS IDEA: Brazilian fact-checking organization Aos Fatos built a bot called “Fátima,” shorthand for “fact machine,” to reply to misinformation on Twitter. “Hi! This link on [the topic] you shared is fake news,” the bot says. “Help spread the right information here.” It then links to Aos Fatos’ fact-checks. Fátima started on Facebook as a messenger bot that provides tips on how to identify misinformation. Most people who share false information don’t seek out fact-checks, so this is a great method of reaching people where they are.


NEWS ASSISTANT: Eighteen percent of Americans own a smart speaker. Of those, 73 percent said they were most interested in using their speakers for news and current affairs. Newsrooms are responding to fill that desire. NPR has six employees working on creating news for voice assistants, and The New York Times and Al Jazeera are actively hiring. Still, it might not quite be time for smaller news organizations to join in. There are limited ways to monetize, discovering news on the devices is a challenge and device makers share little data, Digiday reports.

SORRY, NOT SORRY: “I’m just writing to say I’m sorry.” “ I’m no expert but I think I have an idea for you.” These qualifiers diminish the voice and expertise of the person who uses them. A new Chrome app called Just Not Sorry excises them from email. (h/t Christine Schmidt)

ROBOTS RISING: The World Cup is over and the biggest winner might not be France, but artificial intelligence and automation. Fox Sports, The Times (UK), and French daily newspaper Le Figaro used advances in those fields to enhance their World Cup coverage. Fox Sports teamed up with IBM’s Watson to create an automated highlight machine. Le Figaro automatically built visual summaries of games “within five seconds of the full-time whistle.” The Times tapped Amazon’s Alexa home assistant to provide headlines and interesting facts about the games. All three saw major successes and met some challenges and limitations, Freia Nahser reports for the Global Editors Network. (OK, yeah, France is still the biggest winner.)

DON’T BUNDLE UP: In 2001, the U.S. Department of Justice sued Microsoft for bundling Internet Explorer with Windows. Plaintiffs alleged that the bundling was unfair for competing web browsers like Opera and Netscape Navigator. Shades of that lawsuit echo in last week’s European Union record $5 billion fine against Google, which the EU accused of unfairly pushing its search and web-browsing tools on devices running Android.

JUST FOR FUN: Ahh, it’s that time of year where I get twice as many out-of-office replies as usual when I send out this newsletter. If you’re headed on a vacation, check out Road Trip. It uses Wikipedia to read information about nearby points of interest to you as you move.

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 Poynter.org. He was previously Poynter's digital tools reporter, chronicling tools and technology for journalists, and a producer for…
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