Communicating has become more important than ever. But a shifting media landscape, a deluge of data, and permanent communication – when researching, producing and processing content, professional online publishers face a very challenging task. In view of the daily information overload, it has become more important than ever to filter news and topics, assess their relevance, and present the key content in a wider context. The stories are then distributed through the publisher’s own channels, and the second round of crucial activity, namely tracking, begins. Communication professionals monitor the life cycle and dissemination of their work, analyse the feedback of their readers and followers, and enter into a dialogue with them – more or less around the clock. Those who refrain from following up the readership’s input or are unwilling to engage with the online public are certain to get left behind in the long run – as acknowledged by internet experts. In brief, for those who communicate online for a living, working in the Web in 2014 is no longer a stroll in the park. Having access to the appropriate technical resources, however, such as special apps and internet services, can significantly accelerate and facilitate complex workflows. Such tools provide a better overview of news streams, and enable users to monitor their own output and the responses it generates more efficiently. They also help publishers to organise their work and, in particular, to establish their own strong online brands.
According to the IT industry association Bitkom, in April 2014 the number of apps available for downloading from the four largest app sites (Google Play, Apple’s App Store, Windows Phone Store and BlackBerry World) totalled 2.8 million. Of course, the most popular apps are not those that serve the purpose of making our working lives easier: the market is dominated by mobile versions of social networks and games. Nonetheless, a mass of 2.8 million apps can make it difficult for online publishers to obtain an overview of useful software. As online professionals, moreover, we also have access to an abundance of labour-saving Web tools. Messages extolling new saviours for communicators appear on the Web almost daily. Nowadays it is certainly more crucial than ever before to possess the appropriate tools for the job. Internationally acknowledged online communication experts, including Anthony De Rosa and Ed O’Keefe of CNN, as well as German PR professionals such as Klaus Eck and Thomas Pleil, have disclosed to us their favourite everyday work and organisational tools. From the experts’ recommendations we have compiled a list of 21 apps that significantly ease the task of online communicators working in the Web. Apart from Twitter clients and to-do lists, newsreaders are especially popular, which is where we begin:
Finding content and filtering news streams
Tool #1: Alien Blue
The Alien Blue client further enhances the design and usability of reddit, the self-styled front page of the internet. It makes the job of navigating through the news aggregator’s link and forum lists significantly easier.
Tool #2: Fre.sh
Fre.sh selects the most popular stories from a variety of news sites and presents them in a single column, showing just the headline and the source. The ranking of the stories indicates the speed at which they are spreading, while the font size of the headline shows the general traffic.
Tool #3: Storyful
“When everyone is sharing content, Storyful finds the stories worth telling.” The claim speaks for itself and neatly encapsulates the app’s principal function. Storyful trawls the social Web for video content and separates the wheat from the chaff through its own editors, who verify the content so that it can be used by established news agencies as well. At the same time, Storyful offers the licences required for users to publish the videos on their own sites.
Tool #4: Virato
Virato allows news feeds to be personalised in just a few simple steps. Instead of the classic approach, which entails the compilation of German blog lists, users can simply define topics and keywords for the program to use when it produces the personal online journal. Many other newsreaders deliver a site’s entire content, irrespective of whether or not it is relevant to the topic that is of interest. Because of maintenance work and some updates Virato is currently offline, but will be available again soon according to a company statements.
Tool #5: 10000 Flies
As indicated by its tagline, 10000 Flies shows the current German social media news charts. It ranks the most popular articles on the social media platforms – for either the current week, or the preceding month, or the past year. Stories are graded according to the number of likes, shares and comments on Facebook, links in tweets and +1 clicks on Google. These figures are also used to produce a 10000 Flies Like media ranking, which highlights the news sites whose articles have generated most interaction on the social Web.
Tool #6: Feedly
Feedly is a modern RSS reader which, from a visual perspective, resembles an online magazine more than a classic reader. Operating as a browser or mobile app, Feedly aggregates a news feed from personal sources and allows users to share the feed directly with their own followers. When the Google reader closed, Feedly recorded a rapid surge in new users in March 2013 – half a million within a 48-hour period.
Tool #7: Rivva
In the German-speaking countries, Rivva is regarded as the premier blog aggregator. Articles and mentions are assessed by their likes and comments, and listed in descending order. In the interests of quality control, Rivva polls a predetermined complement of blogs, but its composition is updated regularly.
Tool #8: Tweetbot
After establishing a wide network on Twitter, users can easily overlook the occasional tweet. A client such as Tweetbot can provide a clearer overview by splitting the news stream into individual timelines. Among the app’s functions, push notifications improve Twitter’s user-friendliness considerably.
Tool #9: Nuzzel
Facebook poses a similar problem to Twitter: above a certain number of friends and subscribed sites, the news stream becomes difficult to oversee. Nuzzel comes to the rescue by aggregating the links that are shared especially frequently via the user’s private network (Twitter and Facebook). Ease of use is enhanced by opting to receive an e-mail containing the results.
Analysing output and reactions
Tool #10: Chartbeat
Chartbeat is a monitoring tool for the user’s own website. Once the script is integrated in the relevant site, it delivers a detailed analysis of visitor activities. Since the software operates in real time, users can respond promptly and across multiple channels, even on sites with a high traffic volume.
Tool #11: Clicky
According to its own figures, more than 700,000 registered users are currently monitoring their websites with the analytics tool Clicky. One of its cool gimmicks is the heatmaps that show what visitors are clicking and/or not clicking.
Tool #12: Diigo
Diigo describes itself as a “multi-tool for personal knowledge management” and enables users to build a personal library consisting of bookmarks and notes. In order to facilitate collaboration, archived content can also be shared with others.
Tool #13: Keeeb
Keeeb is a content curation tool – and a really good one at that. Users can collect text extracts, images, videos or entire websites by topic, and add their own material and notes. As regards appearance, the Keeeb pages strongly resemble the pinboards of the Pinterest app. Keeping an overview is especially easy because the collected snippets of information and data can be arranged and linked as the user wishes. Finally, here again, the results can be shared.
Tool #14: Instapaper
The read-it-later service Instapaper enables users to save texts and articles from the internet for viewing later on any device, without the advertising that appeared on the original website. The latest update facilitates social reading as well – users can not only highlight individual text passages, but also forward them to others.
Tool #15: IFTTT
If This Then That – a “recipe” for establishing links between channels, such as Facebook, Evernote, LinkedIn and others. The user decides what action is to be taken if this or that happens. IFTTT instructions enable users, according to the app’s claims, to put the internet to work on their behalf. A typical instruction would tell the app automatically to save the most popular articles appearing in the New York Times to a personal Instapaper account once a week.
Tool #16: Hootsuite
This social media dashboard, which has more than 9 million users, remains the market leader. Hootsuite can manage activities and analyse brand performance on all the major social networks.
Tool #17: Buffer
Buffer sees itself as a queuing system for social media posts. It is a useful tool in particular for businesses and individuals who publish an abundance of content on all the social media channels. Two steps have to be taken before the automated queue (buffer) can be used: first, set up an account, then determine a timetable for distributing the posts.
Tool #18: Dropbox
The storage and sharing service Dropbox is worth its weight in gold. It enables users to save, manage and share even large quantities of data, and has become indispensable for the bulk of digital project activity.
Organisation and …
Tool #19: Evernote
Evernote restores order when Post-it notes lose control. Users can create and organise notes even while on the move, and produce to-do lists and share their comments with others. One of Evernote’s advantages, compared with similar programs, is its availability not only for mobile devices, but also as a desktop application.
Tool #20: Wunderlist
The free management tool, which is already used by around 5 million people, is regarded as one of the most popular GTD (getting things done) applications on the market, alongside Evernote. In particular, users much appreciate its excellent collaboration features. Tasks can be organised, discussed and distributed within teams, and notes and files can be added to colleagues’ work at any time.
… establishing yourself as a personal brand
Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Xing are recognised as crucial channels for self-branding on the Web. Online publishers in particular, however, are recommended to take a look at the final tool in our list as well:
Tool #21: MuckRack
Journalists and bloggers use MuckRack to create a free profile containing their own portfolio. It adds value by enabling them to market their activities and network with others. The platform also offers fee-paying accounts for PR and marketing experts, which allow them to search for and make contact with relevant online publishers.
I wish to take this opportunity to thank the many experts who made useful recommendations – especially Ed O’Keefe, Thomas Pleil, Bernhard Jodeleit, Holger Schmidt, Katja Presnal, Anthony De Rosa, Martin Giesler, Mathias Winks, Klaus Eck, Johannes Lenz, Mathias Winks, Juliane Leopold, Philipp Steuer and Kurt Wagner.