Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Administration and Management
General Office Tools and Applications | Collaboration and Project Management
Chapter 2: Communication and File-sharing
Messaging and Communication | Cloud Storage and File Sharing
Chapter 3: Accounting & Payments
Accounting and Invoicing Platforms
Chapter 4: Analytics & SEO
Data Analytics and SEO Tools
Chapter 5: Audience Engagement
Survey Tools and Forms | User Comments
Chapter 6: Audiovisual Tools
Audio | Video
Chapter 7: Content Management Systems
WordPress and Associated Plug-ins | WordPress Alternatives
Chapter 8: CRM/Donor and Subscriber Management
Donor Management Platforms
Chapter 9: Design Tools & Data Visualization
Illustration and Data Viz Platforms | Stock Images
Chapter 10: Marketing & Engagement (Social Media and Email)
Social Media Publishing Tools | Email Marketing
Chapter 11: Security
Site Security | Password Managers | Virtual Private Networks
This guide was produced thanks to support from of the Google News Initiative. It was researched and written by Talya Cooper, a researcher based in New York who has worked as the archivist of the Edward Snowden archive at The Intercept and as archive manager at StoryCorps. She is the co-author, with Alison Macrina, of “Anonymity,” a guide to anti-surveillance and privacy technology for librarians. This guide was edited by Nikolia Apostolou and Reed Richardson. Illustrations created by Sentavio, via Freepik.com. Design by Chafiq Sroor.
Here are tools to help small newsrooms with all the work that isn’t newsgathering: paying the bills; scheduling collaborative projects, and maintaining shared communication channels for team members; editing and posting a podcast; designing a graphic for social media and then seeing how well the post performs. With myriad products on the market all claiming to be the best, or uniquely necessary, researching the best solutions and then paying for them can be overwhelming. We’ve selected a number of popular offerings in a few key categories, with affordability as one of the main criteria.
The majority of the products below offer free trials, and most have a “freemium” version — a free tier with limited features, alongside paid versions with a broader range of capabilities. Most companies consider customer support a premium add-on that comes with paid subscriptions, which is another crucial factor to consider for small organizations with limited in-house technical support.
Many of these companies offer discounts for nonprofits, charities, and educational institutions; most require organizations to provide some documentation. Nonprofit news organizations, charities, and NGOs should also consult TechSoup (Charity Digital Exchange in the UK) prior to making decisions about software implementation. TechSoup liaises with companies in the tech industry to provide registered members with free and discounted software, including popular and costly products like Microsoft (MS) Office and Adobe Creative Cloud. They also offer courses and networking opportunities. The offerings and prices vary by country, and they charge an administrative fee for some products.
A note on free and open source software (FOSS): These products are typically built and maintained, wholly or partially, by volunteers. While they might have the same features and capabilities as paid tools, they typically lack polished interfaces. When first encountering them, users usually remark that they look outdated. These tools may function more slowly and appear less intuitive than a product like Excel or Photoshop and also typically require more technical know-how to implement than commercial software, which is more plug-and-play. That said, the tools we have selected have robust user communities worldwide. A wealth of online documentation, like instructional YouTube videos, wikis, and user groups, can help new users overcome hurdles.
In addition to their monetary cost, FOSS products have security benefits. Since these products are open source, the user community can audit the code, which decreases the likelihood of an application including hidden bugs or backdoors. Whereas some companies only offer their paid products in certain countries, most FOSS products have no such limitations. Because they have global user bases, these programs have often been translated into more languages than commercial products.
Finally, using free tools from corporations like Google or Facebook typically comes at the cost of privacy. In exchange for making these tools available at no cost, these large tech companies will analyze and mine your data as well as your users’, and depending on the country, potentially provide access to law enforcement agencies. In some instances, you may find that the ease of use and quick setup time of a given tool is worth that trade-off, but you should carefully read software privacy policies and take them into account as you select a tool.
All pricing in this guide is current as of June 24, 2021 and in US dollars, unless otherwise noted, with VAT not included. The language listed is the language in which the tool itself is available. Where the information was readily available, we have noted any limitations on a tool’s geographic availability.