With real time updates being the new lifeblood of the web, it makes sense for traditional bloggers to get in on the act. Just this month Fast Company declared that live blogging may just be “the next great media form“.
There’s definitely still a place for live blogging events on the web, and a number of publishers are making their websites much more engaging by embracing all of the media forms together under one topical umbrella, including letting the audience become part of that message through social media.
I’ve decided to take a look around at some of the technical solutions you can use to both curate real time updates as part of your overall message, and at some of the best platforms to setup a live blog around an event, and drive traffic.
Core features. Flexibility in moderation, Good customisation of appearance, Multi-editor support.
ScribbleLive is one of the more established live blogging platforms on the web today. It is a commercial offering, but with that comes a host of features. Scribble pitches itself as a fully fledged CMS, and with its moderation and filtering of comments, acts somewhat similar to an ordinary blogging platform. Admin users have full control over how open the moderation policy is within the platform, and you can choose to either disable comments from your users entirely, allow with moderation, or go hell for leather and open up the debate without moderation. Once you’ve made that decision, its a relatively straight forward process to get up and running with both the editor, and embed code.
You can allocate multiple users for your live blog (inviting them to participate) decide when you want to ‘go live’ (i.e. if an event you wish to live blog is in the future) and then get down to the all important posting of updates. There are a multitude of ways to update your event. Firstly, and perhaps easiest of all, is to just use the ‘Write’ panel provided from within the Scribble Live admin screens. Should you find that a little restrictive (particularly if you plan to live blog via a mobile device) there are two further options. Firstly, integration with Twitter can provided you with mobile live blogging capability. Simply setup your Twitter client on your phone, link it your ScribbleLive account, and Tweeting will automagically update your liveblog. As well as following users, you can also follow subjects within Twitter that you feel would add value to the conversation. A nice touch. Facebook integration works in a similar way.
ScribbleLive provides each user with their own email address which can be used to post to the platform. If you can send an email from your device or website, then ScribbleLive will accept that content – and although its marginally slower, works exceptionally well.
Embed code and customisation will be a massive part of the decision making process for developers looking for a way to provide real time functionality on their own sites, and ScribbleLive doesn’t disappoint. Embedding is available through an iframe embed, and you can also modify the theme to go along with (including colours and fonts etc. ) The embed code also provides an easy way for website visitors to get onboard as part of the conversation, with a way to sign in via social platforms – minimising the barrier to entry, and getting the community stirred up around your event. Overall, it a very well rounded solution and worth a closer look.
Core Features: API support, Facebook Integration, Audio Visual support in the stream.
CoveritLive comes in two main flavours. There is CoveritLive Basic, which offers the core features but with a 5,000 readers a month limit. (Recommended for niche bloggers, educators, and non profits). CoveritLive Premium is a stepped up service with no-readership limit and a variety of premium features like Groups and News Feeds.
Interestingly, the entire CoveritLive platform is built ontop of the Joomla open source content management system, with various custom modules developed. Its an interesting application of the technology, and the result impressive.
CoveritLive offers the ability to setup your event in an embeddable console, where as well as the main event feed, you can also augment the experience your visitors have of your live blog with multimedia. You can for example embed audio (directly uploaded by you), video (either uploaded from you or streamed directly from YouTube, Qik or Google video) and images. This gives a great level of control over the event as you can quickly post content to the live blog as it makes its way onto the web. There’s even support for integration with a live webcam, so you can actually stream content directly to your visitors using the platform.
Other features include the ability to control comments from your visitors, and support for bringing together content from social platforms. Integration with Facebook is particularly impressive, as content can be shared from CoveritLive back into Facebook – driving traffic to your event, and there’s also support for the development of a Facebook page which contains the event. If you’ve already got a following on Facebook and are running an event, that’s a particularly tempting offer to garner engagement.
Should you have your own in-house development team who need the flexibility to post into the live stream – no problem. CoveritLive offers a full API that lets you both read and write from the platform. With a bit of creativity you could for example hook CoveritLive directly to a smartphone camera and publish pictures instantly to the stream. That’s a tremendously powerful part of the service offering.
Pricing: http://gsnap.com/learnmore.html ?
Core Features. Simple to deploy, Easy to use, Solid feature set.
Another solution for Live Streaming, is GSnap. This platform allows you to get going quickly by providing you with integrated login via Twitter and Facebook. Simply login using those tools, and add an email address and username for Gsnap, and you are more or less ready to roll. Pricing wasn’t terribly transparent, (if you can make sense of this page do let me know!) there appears to be a free account (limit of 500 viewers), a premium user trial (up to 5000 viewers for a one month) or a premium user account for ($499 a month) Dependent on package, whatever that means. At the crux of it, it looks like you have to get in touch before finding out how much you are likely to pay for you event. That’s the negative side of things, now for the positive.
Once I’d logged in the interface that is presented to the live blogger is very clear. Comments by new users comes in ready for moderation on the left hand side of the screen, and the main blogging interface sits front and centre. The stream supports PDF files, photos, audio and video uploaded directly from your computer, and widgets, which allows the integration of YouTube, Justin.tv and other embeddable media. Although its great to see interactivity features, for the price, this isn’t as user friendly as some other live blogging platforms and services listed here. Other options that you can include in your stream are interactive polls, Questions and Answers (Q&A) and Moderator comments, and a much welcome WordPress plugin for the software.
As you would expect, there is support for embedding the live blog directly into your own site, and the ability to skin it with both a background image and or colour. Custom headers and footers are also available for Premium users. Other control panel options exist for the banning of particular users who become troublesome inside your event. Overall, its a solid solution if not a little overpriced considering the alternatives in the market.
Core Features. Lightweight, Extremely Simple.
Chatroll is a lightweight solution for collaborative chat. Although its not strictly an application for delivering a live blogging experience, it may tick the boxes for bloggers who simply want to skip any moderation and get down to communicating easily and at speed one to one with your audience. It is compatible with all web browsers and mobile devices, including iPhone, iPad and Android, which may make it a contender for those of you needing to communicate on the move.
Don’t be surprised however to find that there is no way to moderate either users or comments before they are published. It really is a much more relaxed atmosphere, so may be more suited for audiences that you can trust implicitly, or in scenarios where that doesn’t really matter!
The most expensive package ($199) a month provides export, custom css styling, and real time analytics. Export functionality is an important consideration. After all, you are probably going to want to save the content you and your visitors create for future search engine benefits.
Core Features. Minimalist, Focused on reading live updates.
Running on App Engine, Wordfaire is another more lightweight option for live blogging. Getting started involves picking a URL for your host and a title for your live blog. No logins are required, keeping the user experience for getting started that bit easier. Released as a live blogging service by the smart folks at Runway7 – Wordfaire offers a hosted live blog that you can link to, or embed.
Support is available for images and text solely, but it’s minimalist design will suit those of you who are happy enough to run a low volume event and link directly to the hosted Wordfaire platform. For those of you wanting to embed the solution, its still in beta, but serves its purpose well. Adding customised CSS lets you style the stream with your own twist.
There is support for commenting from your visitors via Disqus, which is available at the blog level rather than the post itself – so you may find it more of a reading platform than one which heavily engages your audience in the conversation.
You can easily add extra meta data to your updates by using Markdown, which gives an extra bit of flexibility to the way your live blog displays if you are that bit more technical.
Pricing: Open Source Solution
Core Features. Collaborative real-time platform, self hosted.
One of Google Waves main benefits was immediately apparent on its release. Instead of becoming some sort of replacement for email conversations as it was original pitched, bloggers quickly discovered its uses as a great live blogging conference tool that combined real time collaboration with real time content. Thankfully, although Google dropped support for the tool in favour of Google+, it is still available as open source donated to the Apache project.
Facebook Live Stream
The Live Stream plugin lets users visiting your site or application share activity and comments in real time. Using it as a live blogging application is a clever move considering the distribution and virality it could potentially give your event. Once a person uses the live stream (which is embeddable on a third party site) – it is instantly shared to their stream.
The fact that you may already have an audience on the Facebook platform makes it all the more attractive for bloggers.
Storify offers a real time collaborative platform that allows you to curate a story based on information found via social media. It offers a bookmarklet for an easy way to pull information about a story together in one place, and a way to embed that information directly into your blog or website. With Soundcloud support added this year you can also add audio to your stream to bring some added interactivity. This post offers 10 ways that Storify can be used by journalists to enhance a story, of which one of them showcases Storify as a great way to live curate Tweets.
This tutorial will show you how to use Google Docs word processor for blogging a live event – it could be a keynote address or a conference call with media or someone speaking at a local BarCamp in your city.
Live blogging often goes hand in hand with mobile connectivity. Considering most applications of live blogs are going on in the world around us, having a mobile reporting solution makes sense. This collection of tools and software goes hand and hand.
Backnoise is an iOS app which lets you create conversations on the fly, in meetings, watching TV, during class, on the train, anywhere and anytime. It is free to use on the web, however there is a small price for the application. Joining a conversation is easy, as long as you know the name of the particular channel you wish to join. Those of you familiar with IRC will be right at home, as unlimited users can join a particular conversation around a topic. Although conversations can’t be embedded on third party sites, provided there is an organised approach to your event, you can easily link through to the web based version.
WordPress mobile admin
WordPress is undoubtedly one of the more flexible platforms on the web. Combined with plugins such as the above, the accessibility of the content management admin can be greatly improved for mobile platforms. If you are live blogging on the move with WordPress, you’ll find this a much more quicker way of posting the information to your audience – a necessity of the live blog.
Blogger for Android
Blogger provides a way to blog on the move, on Android. You do however need a Google blogger account, but it is possible with the same creative thinking I’ve blogged about before to generate an RSS feed out of your blogger account, and utilise it elsewhere with other services. Mobile blogging into Blogger > RSS out to somewhere else.
Roll your own
Sometimes, even with the quality of the hosted platforms available out there, your particular event demands a certain amount of customisation. This collection of links should hopefully provide code monkeys with some food for thought when developing a real time blogging solutions for a particular event.
Live Blogging Plugin for WordPress
WordPress has a live blogging plugin that polls for new blog posts via AJAX or Meteor and updates your blog directly. It’s a very elegant solution as can be seen from the ScreenCast – all you really need is a shortcode in the right place, and it works across different themes without any change in configuration.
WordPress Twitter Liveblog Plugin
Twitter offers one of the best forms of live blogging out of the box, so it stands to reason that we offer it as a way to communicate with others easily in real time. However, what Twitter doesn’t do well, is let you see sections of the conversation around particular topics (hence the development of the hashtag) – getting people to use a particular hashtag for an event its however sometimes hit and miss. Nevertheless, this plugin integrates with Twitter and lets you liveblog on your WordPress blog. It allows you to add to the liveblogging post directly using Twitter updates. Each Twitter update will appear as a separate line in the post with its own timestamp.
Django Live blogging
Django is a web development framework for Python. It currently allows you to add events, and post entries live. Django-liveblogging can also send updates to Twitter whenever you post something to a story.
With the growth of social media live blogging is certainly here to stay. With these resources hopefully you’ll be able to tap into that trend on your own site, attract an audience, and add something extra to your event.