10 must-have apps for reporters

  • May 26, 2016

Cara Neil, Communications Director

The app store is a massive and intimidating marketplace to navigate, especially with so many “app”licable options. Journalists are constantly using social media and multimedia, and as a result, they’re always looking for the latest app to make their life just a little bit easier. 

BillyPenn.com’s Anna Orso and Advance Digital, Inc.’s Steven Ibanez shared the 10 apps they believe every reporter must have on their phones, outside of the obvious (Facebook, twitter, and Instagram). 

10. Snapchat

Although originally created as a way to share brief moments of life with friends, families and strangers, Snapchat has become a reporter’s best friend. The app brings the reader to the event and location being covered, offering the opportunity to create live events.

Planning ahead is something Snapchat allows reporters to do really well. Both Orso and Ibanez stressed the importance of checking for filters, specifically geo-filters, when covering an event. Geo-filters allow others to see where you are and also give brands an opportunity to engage with their audience. Anyone can create a geo-filter, but Ibanez encouraged anyone who creates a branded geo-filter to have some “roaming reporters” onsite to use the filter to help it gain traction and appear in the Snapchat Live section.

Although Snapchat is a social media app, it doesn’t work like Facebook and twitter. Snapchat doesn’t link to the web, meaning referral traffic won’t happen. However, if a news organization wants stories to be read and seen on Snapchat, they can create a Snapchat Discover story. News organizations that are using Discover currently include: CNN, Daily Mail, Vox, and Wall Street Journal.

 9. Yik Yak

Yik Yak is the perfect app for anyone covering a college or who lives in a college town. Yik Yak is an anonymous social feed that is limited to a specific location; it is especially popular on college campuses. Ibanez and Orso said they have both used the app to receive updates about breaking news on or near a college campus. 

Because the app is location-based, the only posts in the feed will be within a five-mile radius. The downside to the app is the anonymity of it. The leads can’t necessarily be trusted, but when there are multiple posts about the same event, those confirm the validity, and it is a great way to get the jump on a story. 

8. Periscope

The best part about Periscope is its integration with twitter. Using Periscope works similar to Snapchat in its ability to live-stream and bring the audience to the event, but differs in its larger platform, i.e. twitter. Periscope is a live-stream app that does exactly that — live streams. It works like Facebook Live, except it is on twitter. Facebook Live also archives its videos and leaves them at the top of the newsfeed, which increases views and potentially engagement.

Periscope engages with the audience and puts them at the awards show, sporting event, or whatever is being covered. It also gives news media organizations the opportunity to share “behind-the-scenes” looks at the newsroom.

When using Periscope, it’s important to remember what type of content does well on twitter — for example, sports.

7. Google Voice

This app is a reporter’s dream. It allows recording of conversations directly from the phone. No more finagling and making sure the recorder can pick up the phone on speaker — no more hassle for phone interviews! Google Voice lets you create your own phone number (subject to availability) and it syncs that number to all of the phones associated with the account. That means your desk phone will ring, your cell phone will ring AND your house phone will ring when someone calls the Google Voice number, meaning missed calls are a thing of the past. But, in the event you do miss the call, Google Voice will transcribe and archive voicemails.

Being a Google service, it integrates well with other Google applications such as Gmail and Google Drive.

6. Google Photos

Another Google app, but this one organizes photos and syncs them with Google and into the cloud, so they are accessible anywhere. Orso and Ibanez’s favorite aspects of this app were the search capabilities and the categorizing functionality. The app examines the photo and attempts to put a location on it, adding an additional layer of search capability.

Additionally, Google Photos searches the content in the photos. This functionality is great for reporters looking for a general photo to go with a story. For example, say there’s a story about dogs. You’ve taken a photo of a dog before, but don’t have time to search through months and months of photos. In Google Photos, search, “dog” and any photo with a dog in it will appear. The same works for videos.

5. Genius Scan

This helpful little app puts a scanner in the palm of your hand. The app scans documents into PDFs and allows them to be exported as JPEG or multi-page files. This app is fairly straightforward. Orso commented on its usefulness for documenting receipts and other spending that needs to be turned in for reimbursement.

4. Videolicious

This app is simple and lets you use it to create a fast-paced video, adding in photos, videos and voiceovers. Videolicious provides the opportunity to record video within the app or use pre-recorded footage and/or photos. Ibanez and Orso both stressed how simple the app is to use, especially on the fly. Orso has used this app to put together a video in less than 30 minutes because it is all in one place, as opposed to having to download the footage and put it all together on a computer once she returns to the office.

Videolicious publishes to the Videolicious server for free and creates a unique hyperlink that can be included with the story on the organization’s website. The hyperlink can also be shared to social media as a standalone. With an enterprise agreement, Videolicious videos can sync to YouTube.

3. Hyperlapse and Boomerang

These are two apps created by Instagram. Hyperlapse is an app that makes a time-lapse video play very quickly, as if it were being fast-forwarded. Ibanez praised the image stabilization capability in this app. There are many apps that serve this purpose, but without image stabilization, the videos will be choppy and shaky, which creates a distraction from the actual content.

Boomerang is an app that takes a series of photos very rapidly and stitches them into a video that is played forward and then backward — like a boomerang, it always comes back to the beginning. The video is four seconds long.

Both apps’ content can be shared on any social media site, not just Instagram. The downside to both apps is that the content has to be shot within the app; pre-recorded or pre-photographed photos cannot be uploaded into the app.

2. 5-0

Sometimes it can get difficult to stay on top of a developing story heard on the scanner when you have to leave the office to go cover it. This app eliminates that struggle because it’s a police scanner in app form. It has access to most scanner channels, including those outside your area. It can be helpful when there is breaking and developing news in a major city.

1. Ban.jo

Ban.jo is an app that tracks and organizes social trends in your area and nationwide. Interested in what the chatter is in your area about the upcoming election? Ban.jo will organize and show only the posts in your area about that specific topic. This app pulls trending and top stories in your circulation area. Orso explained how she uses the app to help choose BillyPenn’s “Instagram of the Day” in its morning email.

BONUS: Dark Sky

Dark Sky is a weather app and both Ibanez and Orso swear by it. It’s practical for daily use and incredibly helpful when covering outdoor events. Dark Sky updates in real time and gives a countdown until bad weather starts. It gives the option to enable push notifications for when bad weather is coming and for the daily forecast. Dark Sky isn’t a free app; it’s a $3.99 app, but of all of the journalists Ibanez questioned as references for their presentation, the majority said they had Dark Sky on their phone and couldn’t live without it. For a preview of the app without paying, check out the web equivalent of the app at forecast.io.


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