SXSW: 5 Great Sites for Progressive Media Types

Yes, I got my photo taken with the penguin.

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I took the nerd bird out of Austin with my fellow SXSW Interactive geeks this week just as a clutch of tattooed, guitar-toting rock stars swaggered into town for the Music portion of South by Southwest. The Texas tri-part festival (Film, Interactive, and Music) overlaps slightly in schedule and demographics, but frankly the attendees aren’t hard to tell apart in an elevator. Real rock stars, it turns out, are generally better dressed than Internet rock stars; their pallor looks more midnight partyin’ than Minecraft in the den. (I’m still not sure about that 6th Street evening parade of cheering men wearing wedding dresses, though. Start-up guerrilla marketers? Typical Austin Saturday night? The SXSW trade show featured a giant penguin, a Michael Jackson impersonator, cotton candy, and QR codes on anything not nailed down—so really, who can tell?)

Anyway, Monika Bauerlein and I did a SXSWi panel this year on how Mother Jones uses Twitter in reporting (thank you to everyone who made it such a fun panel). Also fun: Hanging out with other SXSWi media folk and hearing what sites caught their fancy lately. Below, 5 digital bon bons and what makes them so sweet:

1. Storify.

Tagline: “Storify is a way to tell stories using social media such as Tweets, photos and videos. You search multiple social networks from one place, and then drag individual elements into your story. You can re-order the elements and also add text to give context to your readers.”

Sweet spot: Via Nieman Storyboard, this example of how local DC news site TBD used Storify to unspool a real life murder mystery.

2. Tumblr.

Tagline: “Tumblr lets you effortlessly share anything. Post text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos, from your browser, phone, desktop, email, or wherever you happen to be.”

Sweet spot: Mother Jones‘ Tumblr, natch.

3. Readability.

Tagline: “Readability is a web & mobile app that zaps online clutter and saves web articles in a comfortable reading view…Readability offers a new way to compensate writers and publishers without punishing readers. 70% of all membership fees go directly to the people who make the content.”

Sweet spot: The New York Review of Books online. A Readability button on each article gives the option to read it now or read it later.

4. DocumentCloud.

Tagline: “DocumentCloud runs every document you upload through OpenCalais, giving you access to extensive information about the people, places and organizations mentioned in each. Once you decide to publish, your documents join thousands of other primary source documents in our public catalog. Use our document viewer to embed documents on your own website and introduce your audience to the larger paper trail behind your story.”

Sweet spot: The world’s largest searchable reporters’ notebook, uploaded to the cloud.

5. MuckRock.

Tagline: “MuckRock is an open governent tool powered by state and federal Freedom of Information laws…You are free to embed, share and write about any of the verified government documents hosted here.”

Sweet spot: Got a FOIA request? Want someone to submit it and follow up? There’s an app for that.

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A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

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