If social media is rewriting the rules of field after field, then publishing may be the field where its impact has been most immediate..and often, most painful. Yesterday, Chris Kenneally of the Copyright Clearance Centre posted an interview with me about this very subject in CCC’s Beyond the Book podcast. Our conversation gave me a chance to share some of my thinking about social media and the future of content, particularly in light of the SIM Centre‘s research with partners like Paperny Films and BookRiff.
While our conversation touched on some of the challenges that content creators face in grappling with social media, I’m more often struck by the opportunities. When I speak with journalists about social media, the conversation inevitably detours into tech support, since I can’t resist evangelizing the social media tools that can make journalists’ work easier and more effective.
As a writer, blogger and occasional broadcast contributor, I’ve developed lots of tricks for using social media to research, write and share content. The Beyond the Book podcast seems like a good moment to write up these tricks in a short series on social media for journalists.
I’m kicking off this series with a love letter to Evernote. This note-taking program is a journalist’s (or blogger’s) best friend — not to mention a tremendous asset to anybody else working in a field that involves taking lots of notes or keeping track of lots of resources. Best of all, it’s free, unless you want the collaborative features that come with the premium version. Here are some ways to use it:
- Note-taking: Evernote lets you put all your notes in a single program. No more hunting around your hard drive for that draft you saved in Word, or flipping through your notebook. You just create each note as a new note in Evernote, and you organize your notes into notebooks (like folders) and/or by using tags. You can sort your notes by date and search either within notebooks or within your entire Evernote database, so it’s very very easy to find anything you need simply by typing a couple of words you remember writing in that notebook.
- Interviews: I keep notes on every call and interview within Evernote. Keep your interviews in Evernote and they’ll be at your fingertips when you need them.
- Drafts: My hard drive used to fill up with separate word files for each draft. Now I save each draft as a note within Evernote, and use tags or notebooks to collect multiple drafts of a single article. Note that since Evernote doesn’t offer a word count, you’ll still need to copy & paste into Word or another text editor to check your story length.
- Backup: Did I mention that Evernote can sync any of your notebooks to the web? I set virtually all of my notebooks to sync with Evernote’s web version so that I can access all my notes from any Internet-connected computer, and so that I don’t need to be afraid of losing my notes to theft or a hard drive crash.
- Mobile access: Evernote is available for the iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Palm and Windows Mobile. That means you can access any of your notes from your smartphone, which is handy when you have to check a fact or a phone number when you’re on the go. Just as handy, you can jot down a quick note, snap a picture or record a voice memo, and sync it to the Evernote database you maintain on the web and on your primary computer.
- Idea file: I maintain separate notebooks in Evernote for my alexandrasamuel.com blog, my Oprah.com blog, and my Harvard Business Review blog. When I have an idea for a story, I create a new note in the appropriate notebook, using my idea as the title for the note; then I can quickly scan the titles of all the notes in my Oprah.com folder, for example, to see my latest story ideas. If I have a few ideas or sentences to go with my idea, I jot down whatever I’ve got; when I return to the story to start writing, I’m already underway.
- Clippings file: Install Evernote’s web clipper in your browser, and you’ll be one click away from saving a complete copy of any web page, including images. Whenever you have a story published, use Evernote’s web clipper to add the online copy to your Evernote clippings file, and it will stay accessible even if the original story goes offline.
- Research file: Evernote’s web clipper is useful for stories in progress, too. Use the web clipper to compile all the background information for a story you’re working on, and keep it synced to your mobile device so you can access it when you need it.
- Searchable notes: If you like taking notes by hand, Evernote can make those notes more useful. Snap a picture of each page in your notebook using a camera or mobile phone; then import those photos into Evernote (if you’re using your mobile phone, you can do that by creating a snapshot note). When Evernote syncs the photo to an online notebook, it uses OCR (optical character recognition) to parse your notes. They won’t be converted to editable text, but they will be searchable: suddenly, searching Evernote for “Jim Smith” will find your scrawled “John Smith” on the scan of the page you used to take handwritten notes. You can use the same trick to capture whiteboards, signs, business cards or just about any other written word.
- Share your notes: Publish any of your compiled resources by making an Evernote notebook publicly viewable; this can be a way of making your work process more transparent to readers. Or use the premium version of Evernote to share your work-in-process with selected collaborators you invite into an otherwise private notebook
My interview with Evernote CEO Phil Libin gave me a chance to add even more uses to my Evernote repertoire. But the ultimate success metric for my use of Evernote is measured in pages. Before I started using Evernote (in August 2008), I went through one standard Moleskine graph-ruled notebook every 3 months. At the moment, I’m half-way through my latest notebook….which I started using 18 months ago. And that’s pretty much the only paper I use. So figure that Evernote has cut my paper note-taking by more than 90%, while making my electronic notes more valuable than ever.
Even if you’re not ready to give up pen and paper, Evernote can be a crucial asset to the work you do on your computer. From clippings files to draft management, Evernote may be a journalist’s very best friend.
Come back for more tips on social media for journalists over the course of this week. Up next: a journalist’s guide to LinkedIn.