Tools to fix your noisy video chats, send emails with confidence and improve your newsletters

This week in digital tools for journalism

June 18, 2019
Category: Tech & Tools

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.

The internet is bountiful. The internet is lush. I have a surfeit of links, tips and news to share with you, so I’ll keep the opening chatter to a minimum again this week.

SILENCE YOUR CALLS: Just about every video conference call infamously goes the same way. Two people arrive a few minutes before everyone else and start a mundane conversation. At some point, one caller drops out and makes a big deal about returning. And some awful, awful background noise persists through it all. The latter, at least, is now solvable with a tool called Krisp.ai. Krisp (available for all video chat programs on Mac and Windows) finds and removes the background noise from both outgoing and incoming calls. You’ll never have to worry about your dog barking or be forced to talk over the impromptu party that seems to be happening in the cubicle behind your contact ever again.

EMAIL LIKE A BOSS: Sorry for the delay. Just wanted to check in. No worries! Some phrases don’t belong in our emails. They undermine our messages, minimize our opinions and make us seem meek. But we are not meek, my friends. And with the help of Dani Donovan’s printable guide on how to email like a boss, we can speak with authority.

  • If you’re a Chrome/Gmail user looking for a little more technical help, try Just Not Sorry, a browser plugin with a similar purpose.

NEWS WITH VARIETY: What’s old is apparently new again on Spotify. The music streaming service went all-in with podcasts when it acquired the podcast network Gimlet earlier this year. Now, in a new playlist called Your Daily Drive, Spotify is mixing podcasts with music that users have already indicated they like and music that Spotify recommends. And unlike Spotify’s other playlists, which update daily or weekly, Your Daily Drive will update throughout the day. On the user end, it’s a unique experience that remixes the best parts of terrestrial radio, personal playlists and podcasts. For those of us who make the news, it’s another combatant in the war for attention. Will you join them or try to beat them?

PAY ATTENTION: When you’re one of the world’s largest website analytics companies, like Parse.ly, you notice a few things about the internet. People tend to get online starting around 6 a.m., pay the most attention in the earlier part of the week and peter out by Fridays at lunch. On weekends, we pay much less attention to the online world. That trend holds true a remarkable amount of the time. Until it doesn’t. Parse.ly’s Kelsey Arendt writes about how some events — like presidential FEMA alerts and “Game of Thrones” episode releases — noticeably alter internet traffic patterns. The takeaway: Never go head-to-head with Arya Stark.

NEWSLETTER BETTER: It always feels a little meta to share information about newsletters in my newsletter. Dan Oshinsky, The New Yorker’s director of newsletters, solved that meta-ness by writing a newsletter about newsletters that isn’t actually a newsletter. “Not a Newsletter” is a “monthly, semi-comprehensive, Google Doc-based guide to sending better emails.” It’s chock full of information for anyone trying to launch or improve a newsletter, including tips, news about newsletters, Oshinsky’s own observations and analyses, surveys, job postings and more. You can even sign up for a newsletter to get a notification when the next issue of “Not a Newsletter” is available. I’m exhausted.

GET SOCIAL: There’s something about this visualization video of the most popular social networks from 2002 to 2019 that’s strangely beautiful. Maybe it’s because social media can feel like a rat race, and seeing the social networks themselves in a near-literal rat race feels poetic. What started with Friendster and a few million people has led us here — billions of humans all over the world giving our attention to tools owned by Facebook, Google, Verizon (heyyy, Tumblr) and Tencent.

YOUR JURASSIC HOME: Some of the best pieces of journalism take a complex or hard-to-understand topic and render it clearer and interesting to a general audience. FiveThirtyEight does this all the time. The Pudding essentially made a business model out of the idea. Occasionally something like this crosses my desk that doesn’t even qualify as journalism, like this visualization of earth across the ages from a site that hosts dinosaur pictures and facts. Enter your street address and see what was going on in your neighborhood when life was crawling out of the ocean.

NWS IN BRF:

  • Issuu, the digital publishing platform, is teaming up with Adobe’s InDesign to make designing stories across platforms a lot easier. The new tools make it easy for newsrooms to transform their work into social media stories, a la Instagram Stories, that can be shared just about anywhere.
  • Billions and billions of hours of information are locked in online videos, invisible to search engines and others who might discover them. Trint, the automatic transcription tool, just launched a video player that automatically generates transcripts that make videos, and the content inside, easier to find.
  • The dream of micropayments for news might be dead. Blendle has stopped selling individual news stories to focus on its premium service, which gives users access to a broad swath of online news articles for €10 per month.
  • It’s not that Apple’s iMessage is a bad tool for messaging, Dieter Bohn writes. It’s just that, since it’s not on Android, it’s not widely available enough. But after years of trying to get his network to meet him on secure messaging apps like Signal, Bohn gave in to iMessage. “I have come to believe that using a secure chat app is increasingly a moral imperative, and I have failed utterly and completely to convince enough people in my social network to switch to a third party, end-to-end encrypted chat app,” he said.
  • Here’s a formula you’re probably familiar with: Logo. Menu. Headline. Image. Byline. Text. Comments. Ads. Face it, most websites look alike. Here are 11 that break the mold.

Try This! is supported by the American Press Institute and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.