Free Storytelling Tools

I started this list when I spoke to students at a high school journalism conference on how it is possible to do everything you need as a journalist or storyteller by using free products. Since then, this list continues to grow! It can be helpful for anyone trying to do good work on a tight budget.
Most recent update: October 17, 2013

(Click here you’re looking for Twitter Tips)

Blog/Website

Weebly – A free website building tool
Yola – Another free website building tool
Jimdo – Another free website building tool
Google Sites – A free website building tool
Wix – A free website building tool using Flash (The site just announced HTML5 sites)
Blogger – Simple way to blog
WordPress – A blog and static webpage product
MovableType – A downloadable blog system
Blogsome – More blogging
Livejournal – Blogging with a social community
Posterous – A simple way to share thoughts and links
Tumblr – A microblog that can be used as a full blown blog if you want
Kompozer – A web design tool that does a lot of things Dreamweaver does (but for free)
SquareSpace – $12/month hosting fee

Audio Editing/Podcasting

Audacity – Free audio editing tool (Version 2.0 was recently released.)
WP Audio Player – A WordPress plug in you can use to embed audio into your website (you need server space). Mindy McAdams created a tutorial on how to make that work.
SoundCloud – After talking to a rep from this company, their goal is to become the YouTube of audio.

Video Sharing/Editing

YouTube – Everyone uses it and it’s available for use on WordPress.com. You can create a channel for your content. YouTube also recently released an in-site simple video editor.
Vimeo – Beautiful, clean video player, works on WordPress.com, you can also create channels
Photobucket – Free place to store video or video
Flickr – Free for a limited amount of monthly uploads of photos and videos
Viddler – Nice video player and you can comment on the video
Tubemogul – Upload your video EVERYWHERE!

Video Streaming

Livestream – A popular streaming service. You can create simple and highly produced streams inside this tool.
Justin.tv – One of the first free streaming services
Ustream – Another popular and reliable multi-camera tool
Blip.tv – Another nice option for streaming video

Video Conversion

MPEG Streamclip
Prism
Handbrake (for Macs)
WinFF (for PCs)
ffmpegx (for Macs)

MediaFork (DVD to MP4 for Macs)

Zamzar – an online conversion tool that will convert almost anything

KeepVid – download video from sites like YouTube

Photo Sharing/Editing

Flickr – Professional storage and free editing tool (size limit) – has a social community
Photobucket – Free place to store photos
Picasa – Photo storage (works directly with Blogger and all other Google Tools) and photo editing
Photoshop Express – Just like Photoshop image editing but online (up to 2 gigs)
PicMonkey – Former employees of Picnik created this awesome, simple tool
Pixlr – A multi-faceted online photo editing site

Mashable created this page with even more photo editors.

Multimedia

Vuvox – Create a multimedia collage and embed it to your site.
SlideDeck – Create a deck of images, videos and more. (for WordPress)
Prezi – Create a dynamic presentation that can include multimedia and embed into your site.
Storify – Curate social media discussions along whatever topics or categories you can imagine.
Timeline –  Free multimedia timeline tool created through Knight Foundation funding
Facebook Timeline – Newsrooms can create a timeline of its history or of stories it covered on Facebook. Here are details on how newsrooms are using Facebook Timeline apps. (By the way, all pages must switch to Timeline on March 30th.)
Scribd – Embed docs and pdfs on your website
DocumentCloud – Embed docs with annotations
Slideshare – embed powerpoint or keynote presentations

Document Sharing/Collaborating

Google Documents – Create content and work on it from anywhere with Internet. Good for collaborating.
Basecamp – Collaborate content, deadlines, messages and content. Basic version is free.
Google Groups – Collaborate content, deadlines, messages and content.
Dropbox – 2 gigs are free to share, 50 gigs are $9.99/month

Social Networking

Twitter– A microblog that lets you connect socially and share links and information in a concise way
Twhirl
– A tool that lets you Twitter with more than one account
Twitter Search
– Follow Twitter themes by searching keywords
MySpace – Old school social networking
Facebook – Many opportunities to promote your news product here
Tumblr – To me, this is an eye candy version of Twitter with a smaller and at times more engaged community. If you are curious how a newsroom can use it, check out this tutorial by Matthew Keys.
Google+ – Google’s newest social media network that is slowly evolving into a social wrapped around all of the Google apps. (You can read my primer here.)
Pinterest – More and more newsrooms are finding creative ways to use this popular network with news content

Twitter/Facebook/G+ Tools

Advanced Twitter Search – Twitter’s search. Make sure you do an advanced search to help search geo-located tweets.
Facebook Search – the company is expanding how its search works. Keep an eye on additional geo-location features coming soon.
Twitter Local – Take a look at tweets in your area (or a specific area of your choice)
Trendsmap – A map that locates trend topics. (This is super cool.)
Twitaholic – Gives rankings and analyzes Twitter use
TweetStats – Learn about a Twitter user’s statistics
Twittercounter – More Twitter statistics
Hashtags – Follow hashtag trends and learn more about the technique (Consider joining #wjchat weekly on Wednesdays at 5pm PT/8pm ET)
ContextMiner – Try to analyze context out of multiple social media tools
The Archivist – Another Twitter archive tool for PC’s
WhatTheTrend – Learn about the trends behind the terms (but the trend definitions are not always correct)
Suggested Circles – A way to search public options based on Google+ profiles.
Circle Count – Learn and search users inside Google+
Twylah – Make a brand page for your tweets

Social Media Management Tools

Tweetdeck – This is often the tool that helps new users of Twitter “get” it. I highly recommend creating an account here and searching through hashtags and search terms.
Hootsuite – There is a free version but it costs to have a large number of people manage the same account for Twitter and Facebook pages.
Seesmic – Manage multiple accounts from your computer or phone. There is a web, desktop and phone version.
SocialFlow – A tool that helps you manage your message and keep an eye on engagement.
bit.ly – A handy way to shorten links and keep an eye on click analytics
Buffer – Another tool to help you manage and schedule tweets.
Chartbeat – Basic account to watch live activity on your website is $10/month
Google Analytics – a free site analytics tool

Live Moderated Chats
Coveritlive – This is an embeddable tool where you can moderate a conversation and it’s free!
Scribblelive – There is a 30 day free trial… But you have to pay after that.

Social Link Sharing
Digg – Share links and discuss
del.icio.us – Bookmark and share links
StumbleUpon – Discover links that fit your interest
Reddit – User-generated collection of links

Content Management Systems
(let’s get complicated here)
Django – many newspaper websites are built on this open source system
Drupal – many other news and information sites are built using this open source system
Joomla – another powerful open source CMS that is used by many news and information organizations.
WordPress.org – This is a bit different from WordPress.com because you run it on your personal server space. This lets you use the WordPress tools without as many restrictions about what kind of content you post or which themes you want to use.

Mobile Tools
The Reynolds Journalism Institute has this great Mobile Journalism Reporting Tools Guide that was put together by Will Sullivan and a team of students during his 2010-11 fellowship.

Check out this incredible visual display of social networks and what they do.

Additional Lists
Poynter’s NewsU site has a great collection of digital tools.

Feel free to email me more links and ideas: jenleereeves (at) gmail (dot) com or @jenleereeves on Twitter.