local media insider

Five favorite apps from the York Daily Record: Geofeedia, Storify, RebelMouse, Scribblelive and Scribd

How the top new tools are used by one of the most digitally savvy newsrooms.

By Yael Grauer

The York Daily Record has been recognized by the Newspaper Excellence in Cyberspace awards for its application of social networking and online campaigns, and received a Pennsylvania Newspaper Foundation John Fisher Internet Vision Award. Buffy Andrews, assistant managing editor, features and niche publications (and social media coordinator) teaches seminars on digital content marketing and social media. She shared these five apps used regularly at the YDR:

1.  Geofeedia to find locational content

Geofeedia lets reporters monitor photos and video displayed on social media by location in real time.

The search tool finds photographs and videos taken by GPS enabled devices and shared on   Flickr, YouTube, Picasa, Twitter and Instagram. Reporters can zoom in by  location and filter the results by specific hashtags, dates, keywords or sources.

Best practices:

• Use the images found to identify witnesses and  sources for stories.

• Quickly create coverage for major events outside the media's DMA.

“It allows us to go anywhere in the world—the top of Mt. Everest, Afghanistan, anywhere—and start collecting photos, videos and tweets being publicly shared,” Andrews explains.

The tool has been effective for covering hot but nationally breaking news, such as the Boston Marathon bombing and the Colorado Theater shooting.

• Cover the local news with hyper local social media feeds. Andrews has also used it for local news such as a coverage of a barn fire.

A police scanner finds the fire's location,  then Andrews  plugs the location into Geofeedia to zero in on that area and find photographs that may have been taken by bystanders on their smart phones.

• Create photo galleries for stories on the fly,  using all or mostly user generated content. A common practice is to use Storify to create a photo gallery from Geofeedia images, on the fly, and embed it with the news story on the main web site. As an example, Andrews recently used Geofeedia to find publicly shared photographs of a fairy festival, save them on her StoryPad on Storify and turn them into a slide show.

• Monitor areas in anticipation of the news. The York Daily also sets geo-feeds to monitor specific locations (including schools, swimming areas, shopping malls and so on), on an on-going basis.  They can monitor images posted by the public  and even zoom in on specific buildings. These monitored geofeeds make it easier to find content in a location without needing to set up the feed again each time they want content from that area. Once the general area is monitored, editors can zoom in on the particular location, even to the range of one building or address.

• Save on newsroom costs or add otherwise unaffordable coverage.
Most newsrooms don't have enough staff, for example, to cover every high school graduation, or even the budget to use a freelancer. As an alternative, Andrews uses Geofeedia to capture publicly shared photos taken at graduations, then turns them into slideshows and embeds them online with the graduation story. Likewise, she uses Geofeedia to cover a variety of events including fairs, car shows and even parades.   

It's easy to see how useful this tool really is. The York Daily Record also used it when covering Jerry Sandusky’s trial; The BBC  used Geofeedia to cover Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, showing street views of the procession in tweets and photographs.

To use the platform: Reporters just  sign in and enter an address or name of location in the search bar.

When a map appears, they zero in on an area. Users can circle in on a specific area, adjusting the size by clicking and dragging.

Double clicking  the center of the circle shows geo-tagged content from that location. The polygon tool lets reporters hone in on the area more specifically. After zooming in on the content, view it either as a map or a collage. The map view shows precise location of posts, while collage view shows the sequence and timing of content, useful for timelines.

After finding photographs or videos to use, reporters contact the photographer and ask for permission to re-post (either on  social media accounts or in the actual paper's site or paper).  While the legal usage around reposting "public" images is debatable, best practice is to call; photographers are also eyewitnesses and may be available to provide further information and details on what they observed as a source for the story.

The versatility of the platform allows reporters to select images to share it on Twitter, facebook, via email, on a Pinterest board or add it in Storify. The live Geofeed stream can also be shared directly with readers.
Geofeedia costs $100 per user per month, but there is a free trial account available for 30 days.

Here's a link to Andrew's  own tips for using GeoFeedia.

2. Use Storify to curate social media content, including Geofeedia

Storify  allows reporters to quickly find and paste social media reactions to the news (including Geofeedia images) into stories while adding in their own news reporting and context.

First reporters create a search on the platform, then select, drag and dropping status updates, tweets, photographs and videos into the story format, adding context to create the story. The platform generates an embeddable code to post the story on the main  CMS.  It could be a photo gallery, news report or timeline.

The platform's curation tool shows the curated social media on the left,  allowing reporters to drag each selected element from the feed  to the "story" on the right, then write and include additional text,  adding context to the feeds.

Because photos and text are embedded in the context of the social network, they are also legal under fair use laws.

The combination of curation and the added context providing a new kind of story that takes reactions into account.

Storify allows users to search social media directly from the site or use a bookmarklet which can be added to the browser, making it simple to store information as a reporter is searching on their own, to  embed each into a story later.

Storify can be used used in conjunction with Geofeedia, allowing users to save photographs and videos in their storyboards. Here's an example of coverage of the Olympic wrestling:

Best practices for Storify at York Daily Record include:

•  Gather social media reactions to  breaking news. With breaking news, reporters look for the event taking place - tornadoes in Oklahoma, an election, the Boy Scouts deciding to allow gay members — and scan social media to collect and publish real-time reactions from people, along with context.

• Create galleries of user-generated images on the fly from Geofeedia and other socially available images. Here's a typical example of festival coverage in a photo gallerie on Storify:

• For more engagement, notify social content providers.  One best practice Andrews uses is to notify people that she had used their tweets in a Storify story, sending an @reply to let them know they’ve been quoted. This makes them more likely to read and share the story.

• Highlight social media use by the newspaper’s own staff. Tweets and posts from reporters are collected and repurposed into the news on the Storify platform.

• Add a hashtag as a call to action.  Storify can spark campaigns, contests or social media memes, by asking readers or audience members to use a specific hashtag as a call to action. The New York Times and the Obama campaign has used Storify for this purpose.

• Blend social media with reporting and context. Although reporters do use Storify to cut and paste individual social media responses, best practice  is to blend text and social media to tell a story, mixing in additional quotes and video taken elsewhere. 

Storify is free to use, although there are customized options available for a fee of $79 to $99/month. The best video we found on how to use Storify is here. 

3. Creating a curated Social Media page: RebelMouse

RebelMouse allows the general public to quickly create sites that focus on topics in which they are most interested, all from social media feeds. The search results can be automated, and appear as a formatted page, rather than a news article.

Reporters can also create aggregated pages of content around any topic (or multiple topics) by pulling in relevant hashtags from  Twitter accounts and other social media. The tool pulls in images, videos, headlines, and from accounts and hashtags they select and populates the  page with those images and headlines.

Reporters can edit the curated page by delete items, but unlike Storify, it is page of social media with multiple entry points, not a cohesive story.

The curation around a specific topic acts like a "front page," with promotional links to the deeper content.  There are also buttons  and options for embedding the page outside of RebelMouse (Salon also has a great example of this use).

Reporters at the York Daily Record primarily use the tool to compile live tweets and curate coverage of events. 

For example, Andrews used RebelMouse in the newsroom to curate content for cthe 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (beow).

There is a free version of RebelMouse, or you can pay $9.99/month to use RebelMouse on your own domain. A sponsored content program is also available for an undisclosed fee.

Some reporters have created their own aggregated page for all their content; however since traffic is still small on this platform, so they need to drive readers to the page from some other promotional source such as Facebook, or "see all this reporters coverage on this topic" messaging to have any significant traffic.

More typically a number of reporters are aggregated into a feed around a topic, or a whole newsroom into a social hub.

Best practice usages at York Daily Record - and from around the country include:

• Collecting user-generated conte for weather coverage

Poynter reports that during a recent blizzard, media created a RebelMouse page for Vine videos about the storm,  Digital First  embedded updated coverage from the hashtag #dfsnow on a RebelMouse page, and NPR aggregated tweets from a curated list of member stations and “reporters in the path of the storm.”  Typically the editors still "take off" some of the curated items to create a better page.

• Providing  user-generated event coverage

Like the York Daily Record, other media are using these pages to curate events coverage. Poynter notes The Wall Street Journal’s RebelMouse page for New York Fashion Week (NYFW) and their previous Davos coverage. 

• Showing social reactions to the news and big news stories

The New York Times posted reactions to Time’s Person of the Year selection.

• Creating more robust topic pages

Patch uses is for ongoing political coverage from all its sites here as does Salon here.  While Patch compiles all their reporters around the topic, Salon uses a curated, embed page to fill in the channel with more kinds of content.

• Providing a newsroom social media hub

A few media use RebelMouse to consolidate all of their various social media feeds into a social media hub or 'front page."  CrunchScroll is a RebelMouse powered page of social media from writers here and King5 Seattle  compiles all social media on their hub, here .

Further instructions are  here  and  here. Strengths and weaknesses of Rebelmouse are covered by Poynter in this article.

4. Live Coverage of Breaking News and Events: ScribbleLive

ScribbleLive is a live blogging platform which allows reporters to provide updates on a story or live blog in real time, which are pre-embedded into the main site's platform. 

At York Daily, it’s used most often in the metro department for reporters to post live updates of breaking news and live events. The courts reporter uses it to live blog frm the courthouse when covering interesting cases.

Any time a  reporter  needs to tell stories on the fly, add play-by-play updates in a sporting event, or report on a breaking news story with frequent updates, Scribblelive is an effective tool.

ScribbleLive will add a cell phone account so reporters can make live updates and link to Facebook and Twitter accounts from their phone. The update automatically displays the ScribbleLive user account when a social posts is posted to an event.

The platform allows reporters to add images and videos and host live chats and Q&A sessions. Events are archived for future reference. ScribbleLive allows writers and editors to both publish and edit the liveblog.

How to use it: FIrst, create a new event in the dashboard. Then, fill out the details about the event. Only the title is required, but you can add as much information as deemed necessary. Next, choose a template. Finally, copy the embed code the media's website.  You can invite writers (or even users) to post updates, and syndicate the event. The site  updates instantly, allowing users to both post and edit in real time. Content can be also embedded onto other  external sites.

Here’s an example of York Daily Record using ScribbleLive to provide updates of a commissioners’ meeting in real time:

Best practices include:

• Phone coverage during internet black-outs. ScribbleLive was used by Al Jazeera during the Egyptian Revolution when coverage disruption attempts and internet blackouts caused reporters to resort to phoning in updates. The audio messages from Egypt were transcribed and published on Al Jazeera using ScribbleLive.

ScribbleLive was also used by Reuters.com in Japan in 2011 to provide live updates after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. And it's been  used by New York Daily News, Boston.com, MSN, CNN, Reuters, ESPN and more.

• Live coverage of sports and court reporting has had great results at the York Daily Report. The senior courts reporter takes an iPad (allowed where cameras, phones and laptops are not) to liveblog. Court room staff have become followers, increasing opportunities for sources. Scribd (see below) allows the reporter to scan and upload court documents into the blog.  And the blog serves as "notes" for more thought through stories that appear in print.

• Citizen-live blogging is being tested.   Best practice is still setting up accounts wher citizens can post live from phones during a crisis.

ScribbleLive has a free 30-day trial. Freelancers and bloggers can pay $29.95/month for a 3-month trial, but publishers must pay for an enterprise subscription.

5. Scribd

Scribd is a tool for sharing documents online.  The best definition we found was from punchmobile:   “A  YouTube for Documents,"  letting anyone place literary work, reports, studies, thesis, in a searchable library.

Best practices:

• Upload and publish source documents captured on the iPhone.

At the York Daily Herald, the courts reporter uses Scribd to publish court documents. After capturing and image with the iPhone, he uploads them to Scribd and places the link in the live blog.This strategy can be used at school board meetings or any time the reporter runs across a source document, such as a letter or contract, in the field.

• Source library

Often it's worth a quick search to see what research has been posted on Scribd.

 • Promotional engine for documents. Ranked 250 globablly on alexa.com,  Scribd can also be used to drive traffic by sharing documents created in the newsroom. Create a Scribd like uTUbe for sharing documents.


Other apps used at the Recorder include Notable, which collects audio recordings, and Britecove, which  photographers  use to upload photos to the web site, and more. But these five should be in the newsroom tool kit.

Many thanks to Buffy Andrews for sharing the York Daily Record's favorite newsroom apps. See also her Powerpoints.


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