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Tony Rogers

Use These Sites and Tools to Get in Touch With Readers and Gather Information

By July 22, 2009

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The Internet isn't just a way to showcase your journalism, whether it's an an online article, video or blogpost. The web can also be used as a reporting tool to help you gather information. Websites, blogs, social networking sites and Twitter are a great way to get in touch with readers, find out their concerns, develop story ideas and conduct interviews.

So here's a list of cheap or even free sites that will help you quickly get started.

Blogs:

A blog is probably the easiest way to stay in touch with your readers. Free blogs like some of the ones listed below can be created in just minutes.

  • Blogger allows you to set up a free blog. A variety of templates are available, and since it's run by Google you can integrate its operation with your Gmail account.
  • WordPress also allows you to set up a free blog. If you want to get more sophisticated you can use WordPress templates to create a website on your own server.
  • LiveJournal is another free blog that can also be used as a private journal, a discussion forum or a social network.

Websites:

Creating your own website can take a little more time and effort than a blog, depending on how professional you want it to look. But with some of the free services listed below you can have your own site up and running within minutes. Then make your site more sophisticated as you acquire more webpage-making skills.

One tip: Spend a little money to register your own domain name. That will give your site a professional polish.

  • Google Sites allows you to create web pages quickly and easily for free.
  • Webs allows you to create a free website. Hundreds of different templates are available.
  • Homestead is geared toward e-commerce sites. It has a 30-day free trial.
  • Weebly allows you to create a free website and blog.
  • Wix allows you to create more sophisticated-looking Flash sites.

Free Webpage Creation Software:

  • Nvu allows you to create web pages and manage a website with no technical expertise or knowledge of HTML.
  • PageBreeze is another webpage-making program; it includes a drag-and-drop form builder.

Social Networking Sites:

It's easy and free to start your own Facebook or MySpace page, and once you've done that you can easily post links to your online stories and solicit feedback from your friends and followers. There are dozens of these sites, but for maximum exposure it's probably best to stick with the two biggies - Facebook and MySpace.

  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • Twitter:

    Once derided, Twitter is now being hailed - and used - by journalists everywhere. Reporters use Twitter to find sources for stories and to get the word out when their articles are published.

    To get started go to Twitter.com, create a free account and start "tweeting." As you use Twitter more and more you'll gradually gather more followers, and the more followers you have, the more powerful a tool Twitter becomes.

    Also check out Muckrack, a site that aggregates Tweets from dozens of reporters at major news organizations.

    Photo by Paddy Eckersley/Digital Vision-Getty Images

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