If you’re haven’t heard of If This Then That (IFTTT), then you’re missing out on an important, productivity-boosting tool. Pulling in information from “channels” such as Twitter, Storify and even your phone, IFTTT is like an infinitely flexible bridge that connects all of your most used tools in new and exciting ways.
Here are a few simple ways that you can use IFTTT’s programs (called “recipes”) to boost your reporting skills and automate some of your more menial tasks. Take a look for yourself, and see how a couple of small steps can take the pain out of some of your most difficult daily activities.
What’s your favorite use for IFTTT? Let us know in the comments.
1. Boost Your Newsgathering Skills
Every journalist stays sharp by keeping up with the news cycle, but relying on a few bookmarks or an RSS reader to stay up to date can be overwhelming in a hurry. Luckily, there’s plenty of recipes in IFTTT that can make pulling relevant news articles much easier.
Send Starred Articles to Offline: Many issues surrounding news gathering revolve around staying connected to the Internet — who has time to read a bunch of newspapers? However, it’s really difficult being plugged-in when you have a commute and plenty of tasks to do offline during the day.
By combining Google Reader with a service like Instapaper or Pocket, IFTTT will make sure that any news articles you star in your quick scan of your top places will show up offline automatically. That way, you don’t have to be worried about whether you can finish reading important articles on the go.
Send Email when Feeds are Updated: What if your RSS reader could send you a smart digest that told you when the most important news feeds in your day are updated with new articles? IFTTT can link your reader to your email and give you up-to-the-minute alerts on certain feeds without any extra work.
It’s like the next step in RSS — the news comes to the RSS, and then the RSS brings it all to you. That way, your news gathering is less about the hunt and more about getting informed.
Get an Alert when Breaking News Happens: Unless you’re living in breaking news places like Twitter or the AP Newswire, it’s difficult to hop on trends and get the scoop in your day-to-day. It’s especially difficult when news is happening faster than ever, and being late is being left out.
IFTTT can sift through and bring you breaking news just by setting it to hunt for the words “Breaking News” or dialing it to a label that has all of your most important sources. Then, either through text message or an add-on alert system like Pushover, your phone can buzz every time an important story comes through the wires. That way, you’ll know when to hop on and be ahead of the curve.
2. Automate Breaking News Reporting
When you’re out in the thick of a story, it’s a major pain to get all the information you gather on the ground back to a usable place in the office, especially when the news needs to get out immediately. You can utilize IFTTT to assist in reporting, and it will do some nifty things — even over a 3G connection.
Send Instagram Photos to Twitter or Flickr: Now that Instagram has officially broken up with Twitter, it can be a pain to share your photos in any constructive way. IFTTT can circumvent that issue, not only providing a way to broadcast new photos live onto Twitter but also to set them to a public Flickr account.
This way, all of the photos you take live through the service will push out to a public-facing platform — and be saved for the future.
Send an Interview MP3 to Email: Nothing can be a more disastrous blow mid-reporting when your recorder dies. And, while recording via smartphone is all well and good, but using the microphone feature can drain tons of battery if you’re not judicious.
Instead, you can actually call IFTTT, put it on speaker phone, and then it will take that message and send it to you in an MP3 email. In addition to being a backup device for your recordings, you can also utilize it as a way to send on-the-ground interviews directly to the newsroom.
3. Keep Track of Appointments
Let’s face it: staying organized when you have a million things flying at you at once can be a challenge in itself. With tons of articles to write, interviews to conduct and meetings to attend, there’s never any time to keep on top of all obligations.
IFTTT keeps some handy “personal assistant” recipes that will boost your organization and keep everything in the right place.
Speak New Appointments to your Calendar: Logging your daily appointments into your gCal can be a bit of a hassle, especially when it doesn’t take “plain language” directions. Instead, you’re stuck filling out a bunch of tiny forms — something that’s even more annoying when done on a mobile phone.
Again, by utilizing IFTTT’s call feature, the system can translate your message into a workable calendar appointment that will show up in your calendar after you hang up your phone — no extra fussing required. Plus, it can work from nearly anywhere: As long as you have a phone, you’ll be able to take down your appointments.
Get a Text For Interview Appointments: Once you’ve written down all of your outstanding meetings and interviews, it’s on your integrity to make it there on time. Missing an interview opportunity, especially due to poor planning, is a journalist’s nightmare.
IFTTT has a simple answer to that: it will monitor your gCal and send you a simple text message to remind you when an event is 15 minutes away. You can also set it to remind you when events marked with a certain keyword or tag are about to happen — so you don’t have to sift through your bulky calendar to get to the important daily meetings that matter.
Get an alert when important folks email: Every journalist has his or her stable of trusted sources, PR folks and in-the-know colleagues — it’s the way you stay ahead in the industry and report on the best stories at the right time. Because of their importance, these VIPs need some extra prioritizing that a smart inbox may not necessarily be able to manage.
So, simply program IFTTT to follow a folder or label of your VIPs and let it alert you with a text message or Pushover notice when you hear back from them. This is also a great way to make sure you circle back with the right people and never leave a source hanging.