Hackastory

10 best free digital storytelling tools for journalists

The internet is a powerful tool in the hands of journalists. This year showed that web technology and the possibilities of online storytelling are more important than ever before to be embraced by news media. We believe it is crucial for journalists to stay influential in this digital era.

There are plenty of tools and resources to help storytellers build their digital stories. That’s why we made a directory: DigitalStory.Tools. It’s a list of 75 of our favourite tools in 15 different categories, such as multimedia, social media, infographics and video. This is a selection of the 10 best free and easy to use digital storytelling tools.

Storymap
Plenty of stories evolve around geographical locations. Knight Lab made Storymap. This tool helps telling stories with photo, text and video on maps. For example, The Washington Post made a story about Islamic State with this tool.

Timeline
When your story is chronological, try Timeline. With this tool you can process dates and events from spreadsheets. Or just start from scratch. Easy to share and embed, as all other Knight Lab tools. Check out for example this piece about Nelson Mandela’s life from Time Magazine.

Sway
Very easy to use for building a one-pager. Upload video, text, audio, tweets, etc. It’s easy to embed in several (mobile) websites. Check out this example.

Storyform
Another easy multimedia tool. Make beautiful longform stories with video, pictures, audio and text. Compatible with every device and you can choose from different templates. Here’s a bit of inspiration what you can do with this tool.

Soundcite
The Knight Lab is the creator a many tools. This is one creates a happier marriage between text and audio. Soundcites makes it easier for you to mix those two elements. This story of the New York Times used the tool.

IZI.Travel
Combine audio with text and pictures to make a smooth audio tour guide. The company focusses on travellers – hence the name – but has also interesting opportunities for journalists. This is a story the Anne Frank Museum created with this tool.

Infogr.am
The infographic category on our website is – so far – the most clicked list. Infogr.am is a good point to start creating your data stories. Make charts and infographics by uploading data, customise it and share or embed it. Choose from all kinds of chart types.

Steller
This tool is mobile first. With this app you can tell a story on social media through photo’s, videos and text. Feels like a fancy photo book.

Canva
Easy drag and dropping to quickly design social media graphics and presentations. Check out a couple of Canva’s examples.

Thinglink
There’s a lot of talk about 360 and virtual reality. Thinglink lets you annotate 360 photo’s and video’s. The Belgium news paper L’Echo made a couple of them. Also good for adding rich media links to your ‘flatties’, your non-360 degree photos and videos.

Read more:
Are you working together with coders to build your stories? I must confess. Before the start of Hackastory, my media startup, I worked as a journalist for 15 years and I never collaborated with a newsroom developer. At Hackastory I work with these guys every day. This new love story is shocking, at times frustrating, exhilarating and pleasantly mind boggling. In this article 10 tips and tricks for the best collaboration between coders and journalists.

We’d love to connect:
Have fun with it. Is your favorite tools not on the list or on our site? Leave it in the comments or send us an email (
tools@hackastory.com), because we’ll continue to update DigitalStory.Tools.

DigitalStory.Tools was created by Hackastory, a community of journalists, coders and designers. Together we build the future of journalism. Think: new tools and products, innovation methods, news games, mobile interactives and virtual reality stories. Want to join? Leave your details here!

About Albertine Piels

is founder of Hackastory and former editor in chief of RTL Z, a Dutch national news channel.