On deciding to dedicate time to a new storytelling tool

Tools come and go. We blog about them all the time as they crop up. We poke around, make accounts that quickly expire. We wait for platforms to fall out of beta, but forget about them by the time they go public. We claim that some tools are the "future of [fill in the blank]" or the next "[social media tool A] meets [social media tool B]." So how do you decide which ones are worth your newsroom's time? These are a few of my thought processes.

How to decide whether to dedicate time to a new tool/platform/gadget

More often than not, I'll spend extra time with a new tool if I have a direct use case for it. I very rarely stumble upon a tool and create a reason to use it -- which could be an inhibitor to outside-the-box thinking, but I digress. The best tools are the ones that solve a coverage  problem or put a significant twist on already-existing storytelling tools. Sometimes -- and these are my favorite kind of tools -- you stumble upon one that fills a huge need that you didn't even realize you had. For me, Storify was like this when it first came out, but now, I don't know how I ever lived without it.

Questions to ask when assessing the value of a tool

Mentally, my thinking process is as follows:

  1. What need does this tool address?
  2. What utility could this tool provide for our readers?
  3. How easy is this tool to use for our newsroom staff?
  4. How well does this tool integrate with the rest of our website?
  5. How sustainable will this tool be in the long-run?
  6. How shareable/searchable is the content of this tool?

Convincing others to tool is worth their time

I never try to convince anyone to use a tool that I haven't already tested. If I truly believe in it (and I think I tend to have a pretty strong sense about the usefulness of a particular tool), I'll build out a prototype of how the tool might look and work in practice. I often find that this is the most compelling way to convince someone a tool is worth their time, especially in a newsroom.

Ensuring -- when appropriate-- that the tools live on once the "newness" factor fades

Tools live on if they are useful. Sometimes the "newness" factor can overwhelm its actual utility. There is no reason to ensure that a tool lives except that it is useful, and that happens naturally. Tools that we use at The Seattle Times (that no one is talking about now that their "newness" has faded away):

  • Cover It Live - For weekly live chats
  • Dipity - For dynamic timelines
  • Flickr GeoFeed + Google Maps - For realtime photos on a map
  • Facebook and Twitter, of course
  • Google Forms - To collect data
This entry was part of this month's Carnival of Journalism, hosted by Bryan Murley.