Free Web Tools for Everyday Operations: Open Source Applications Don't Stop with CMS or Social Networks

Article excerpt

IN TODAY'S WEB-FIRST, print-second workflow, any tool or service thats offer a high quality solution quickly--and even better--for free, is highly prized. But publishers are starting to catch on to the fact that they can leverage public and shared sites to meet many of their needs, from pushing stories out to more eyeballs than their usual audience to finding high quality stock photos and artwork at a fraction of the cost of hiring a photographer or dedicated illustrator.

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"We've been using quite a few open source solutions for years, which is what many of the sites like Flickr, Twitter and Facebook are based upon," says Jay Hook, IT director for Reni Publishing. "Personally, I feel that open source in the publishing world is going to become a turning point for many independent publishers as they become more user-friendly and feature-rich. Many publishers are unaware of the solutions available, mainly due to a lack of research."

Reni is now in the early stages of looking at a free site for creating digital editions, called Issuu. "It also has its own markup language, which is used to control the viewer's theme," says Hook. "This means that designers will have the ability to create all kinds of new things for the Issuu viewer."

More for Less

Flickr (www.flickr.com), an online network that features photographs and images submitted by members, offers publishers an alternative to the stock images from services like Getty and Corbis, as well as a chance to showcase their own work. Flickr does not own the rights to use photographs found on the site--every photo is property of the appropriate rights-holder of the image. A large collection of Creative Commons licensed photographs are available to anyone as long as they are using the appropriate licenses, provide proper attribution and have cleared any additional requirements, such as model releases.

From time to time, companies may choose to advertise on or sponsor a Flickr group or area of the site in order to engage the Flickr community through the sharing of photography. Flickr has a formal and standard sponsorship program that allows for sanctioned activity but community guidelines do not allow commercial usage by third parties except through formal relationships, or through Getty Images.

In July, Flickr announced a partnership with that old publisher standby, Getty Images, which can now invite Flickr members to participate in a Flickr-branded collection on gettyimages.com. Thousands of images are available for licensing to Getty Image's creative commercial and editorial customers.

Twitter: The Editor's New Best Friend?

Many publishers are leveraging established social networks like Facebook to promote their titles and push content out to the Web. The Nation recently added Twitter--a service that lets members stay connected and share news with short messages--to its arsenal. "We're putting up four stories a day," says online director Jeff Larson. "Right now we have 66 followers but that's just word of mouth. We will soon start promoting onsite with RSS."

During the first week of September, The Nation received an additional 24,130 viewers from links and postings on other free sites. "That's relatively quiet," says Larson. "Often digg, reddit and del. …