By Alexa Boschini, Associate Editor, Home Accents Today

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Editors today have so many storytelling elements to consider beyond words on a page. In today’s fast-paced, technology-entrenched world, readers are inundated with information from an endless sea of sources, and their attention spans are shrinking. So how can we fight through the clutter and help our content stand out?

During the ASBPE Conference last month, Ren LaForme, interactive learning producer at Poynter’s News University, gave attendees an overview of some easy-to-use digital tools to augment your online storytelling.

But before diving into this interactive toolbox, editors should assess a few key questions. Is there a better way to tell this story than your traditional approach? Who is your audience for this story and what do you hope they glean from it? Which digital tools will most enhance their understanding of the story?

The resources LaForme reviewed in his presentation are sleek, engaging and look like they require a lot more time and energy than they actually do. The best part? They’re free to low-cost and intuitive, ideal for busy editors with limited budgets and tight deadlines. Among the highlights:

Timeline (http://timeline.knightlab.com/): This tool from Knight Lab is perfect for stories with a chronological element. Add captions and photos into the provided Google spreadsheet and the program generates a visually dynamic, interactive timeline that can be embedded on your website like a YouTube video.

StoryMap (https://storymap.knightlab.com/): Also from the Knight Lab repertoire, this tool is similar to Timeline but maps chronological events across distance. StoryMap allows users to pinpoint locations on pre-loaded maps, and easily input text and upload rich media files to accompany each place for added clarity.

Juxtapose (https://juxtapose.knightlab.com/): Use this tool to compare two images that showcase changes over time. Knight Lab recommends it for then/now and before/after stories. Simply upload two images and add text, and Juxtapose creates a slider that allows users to move back and forth between the two images.

SoundCite (https://soundcite.knightlab.com/): Another Knight Lab creation, this tool embeds sound within the copy of an article rather than breaking up text like traditional audio players. Upload audio clips to SoundCloud and enter the URL into SoundCite, set a start and end point for your clip and paste the provided embed code where you want it to appear in the copy.

Datawrapper (https://www.datawrapper.de/) and Infogr.am (https://infogr.am/): Both of these tools create quick and easy data visualizations. Upload your data, choose from a wide variety of charts and embed them into your article to give your statistics-driven story a visual boost.

Canva (https://www.canva.com/) and Pablo (https://pablo.buffer.com/): Social media posts with photos typically perform better than text-only posts, but sometimes we want to share articles that lack compelling art. Both of these platforms allow users to create images that are optimized for social media. Select from an extensive library of stock art, and add an engaging pull quote over the image.

Videolicious (https://videolicious.com/): Shoot selfie-style videos on your iPhone and splice in B-roll clips with the tap of a finger using this mobile app designed for video editing novices. The free version is great for short, narrated videos while the paid plan unlocks additional features. LaForme recommended Kinemaster (http://kinemaster.com/) as an alternative for Android users.

As convenient as these tools are, LaForme said integrating them into your daily workflow often proves more difficult. B2B editors often have hectic schedules and juggle a multitude of responsibilities, so implementing a new approach to digital content requires a shift in mindset and work culture.

LaForme advises to “just do it” – the best way to learn how to use these tools is hands-on experience, and testing the waters on a low-risk project is the perfect way to demonstrate their potential long-term value to your colleagues and supervisors.

But LaForme also cautioned that digital tools can’t transform poor content into high-quality work. The content itself is king, and with the right digital resources, it can soar to new heights.

This blog post is based on a presentation from the ASBPE 2016 National Conference. Stay tuned for more blog posts about conference presentations.