When CoveritLive hands you lemons, make workaround Kool-Aid

The online media world was in one helluva tizzy late Wednesday and early Thursday when someone discovered that CoveritLive, the live publishing interface used by many brands and news organizations, was no longer offering free accounts. Many of us have been using the ad-supported version of CiL to hold reader chats and publish liveblogs for years now – and we were quite surprised. With several big conferences and annual news events coming up, news orgs will need some alternatives in place very quickly.

As of Wednesday, CoveritLive’s trial/free plan allows for only 25 “clicks” (whatever those are) per month, with all other plans charging per “click” with a capped limit each month. In other words – this is no longer a viable option for most newsrooms.

Eds note 2:17 p.m.: I’ve been told by a social journalism contact that CiL will be free and ad-free until July 1. (Not independently verified)

Having only recently posted my praises of CoveritLive, I felt compelled to help by pulling together a list of alternative workarounds for live chats and liveblogging.

If you have a suggestion to add to this list, please share it in the comments or submit it here.

 

If You Intend to Pay Anyway

ScribbleLive is probably CoveritLive’s best-known competitor in this space. ScribbleLive is a paid service used by many news organizations for live coverage, especially those in the tech world, and its functionality is quite similar to that of CiL.

 

No-Cost Workarounds

You don’t have the resources or the time to set up a whole new deal with a new vendor? OK, here’s some things you could try.

Note: This is a quick post, I intend to edit and add more suggestions below as I find or receive them. 

Use your Existing CMS or Blogs

Call it low-tech, but if you have a website with a CMS or a blog, you have a liveblog (albeit a slower, manual model). We used to do this all of the time for liveblogging stories at TBD and it works fine if you set up an easy-to-follow system of posting.

Quick to-do: Start a new entry in your website’s CMS or your blog with the basic info you have for the breaking story or topic you’re tracking. When you have an update to add to this liveblog, put it above the last post, indicate it as an update with a timestamp like so.

 

Live Tweet and Display/Curate

It’s time to take your liveblogging to Twitter by either using your existing personal or newsroom Twitter account or setting up a special handle just for live tweets. To make sure those readers who aren’t on Twitter can still see the live postings on your site, you’ll need to do some quick curation.

For in-the-moment tweets, you could opt to use a simple Twitter widget embed to show this account’s tweets or display a hashtag search. If you want to keep the tweets on your site and in order, you’ll need to do some quick curation and publication in a tool like Storify. If you have the time and resources, you might opt for a more selective “liveblog” by live-curating tweets and other elements in Storify. You could embed the beginning of the live curation in a post on your site and all new updates you publish within Storify will automatically publish to that entry without refreshing.

 

Build Your Own Using Google Docs

My Digital First colleague Ivan Lajara, who always has an answer for such problems, mocked up a liveblog in Google Docs. Using the Docs “Publish to Web” feature, you can embed a live document inside your site or, for faster updates in a near-live format, put an iframe around the live document. He noted that text, URLs and images from Google Drive seem to work fine here, though users will likely have to refresh to see changes and it won’t be easily viewed on mobile devices. If you use the iframe method, be careful, as it is truly live and users will be able to see you typing as you edit.

Quick how-to from Ivan: Set up a regular Google Doc and make it public. To put an iframe around it using

<iframe src=”HERE GOES THE URL OF YOUR GOOGLE DOC” name=”frame1″ scrolling=”auto” frameborder=”no” align=”center” height = “1000px” width = “600px”></iframe>

If you try something like this on your own, drop me a tweet or comment and let me know.

 

More:

Elana Zak posted about a few other CiL alternatives over at 10,000 Words. She highlighted live blogging tools G-Snap, Wordfaire and WordPress’ own liveblogging plugin.

 

Live Chat Workarounds

Use Facebook chats

You could hold a basic chat int he comments within a Facebook post. It isn’t the most elegant process in the world, but at least everyone knows how to use it. If you’d want to archive this chat, you could opt to save all of the pieces in Storify using either their Facebook page search or (as I would recommend) their browser plugin for Chrome Firefox or Safari.

There are also several Facebook apps out there (I know of Clobby, what else?) to allow brands to hold on-page chats with fans. I haven’t used this method before, so I can’t speak to it, but it exists (if you have info on it, let me know).

 

Use Livestream/UStream chats

If you have video capabilities, sites like UStream and Livestream are great for engaging in chats with readers. You can embed the live video stream into your site and allow comments via the sites’ built-in social stream functionality. A downside? You can’t moderate the comments.

 

Use Google+ Hangouts On Air

Google+ Hangouts are great, their original downside was that only 10 people could participate. Hangouts have recently gotten an upgrade thanks to the newish ability to broadcast the live chat using YouTube. If you’d like to try it, check out how the New York Times uses this tool.

To add in questions from viewers to this chat, you might opt to pair it with Google+ page comments, Twitter, Facebook and/or a liveblog entry to collect comments.

 

Live-curate a social media chat 

Using similar methods as I described above with live tweets, you could pull together a chat on- and off-site using Twitter or Facebook coupled with Twitter and/or Storify embeds. You might want to set up a special Twitter account just for live chats, as things could get a bit crazy for your followers.

If you only care to display the chat as it happens live, you could use a Twitter widget embed to show either a hashtag search or just the tweets of the newsroom chat Twitter account and those of the involved panelists.  That chat “host” could re-tweet questions from followers and, for those readers not on Twitter, could share questions sent in via on-site comments or email as tweets.

If you want a more curated experience (or you want to archive the chat), you could use Storify during or after the chat. To do this, you’ll need to set up and embed the Storify in advance. When the chat starts, you can start pulling in the tweeted questions, answers and comments within Storify. Hit “publish” often to send the updates to your site.

 

More:

Cbox is a social chat product that embeds into your site. You can customize the look and feel and it seems pretty intuitive at a first glance. There is a free ad-supported version with the choice to upgrade to an ad-free version.

Chatroll is another social chat plugin that has a nice look and works in HTML5 (mobile FTW). It allows users to log in with Twitter, Facebook or chat as a guest. (Hat tips to Jen Lee Reeves)

Sunlight Live is an open-sourced live tool created by Sunlight Labs. I don’t know much about it, so I’m gonna tell you to bug Joshua Hatch for more info, as he made this suggestion to me.

 

 

If you have a suggestion to add to this list, please share it in the comments or submit it here.

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  • Acarter

    I’m taking a look today at G-snap, which uses an embed, and Worfaire, which uses a script and gives you the option to share ad revenue or pay for ad-free use

    • http://zombiejournalism.com Mandy

      Cool, let me know how it goes, Angi.

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  • http://twitter.com/jbatsell Jake Batsell

    My suggestion: Recognize the value of CoverItLive’s entrepreneurial idea, thank its founders for their charity these past several years, and finally pony up for what has become an essential real-time engagement tool for myriad news organizations. How can any journalism business in search of “sustainability” deny CoverItLive the same?

  • http://twitter.com/jbatsell Jake Batsell

    My suggestion: Recognize the value of CoverItLive’s entrepreneurial idea, thank its founders for their charity these past several years, and finally pony up for what has become an essential real-time engagement tool for myriad news organizations. How can any journalism business in search of “sustainability” deny CoverItLive the same?

    • http://zombiejournalism.com Mandy

      I don’t think anyone’s is arguing CoveritLive doesn’t have the right to make money, Jake. Most news organizations just can’t afford these kind of rates. Maybe you aren’t aware of how dire the financial situation is for small news orgs and independent journalists/bloggers. There are newspapers out there that can’t afford WiFi, who are using computers so old they can’t run Twitter or Facebook. They simply cannot afford another fee like this. This post was for them. Anyone who wants to pay and can afford to will do so.

  • http://twitter.com/MichiganHockey MichiganHockey.net

    @twitter-20520812:disqus I run a college hockey blog for fun. Starting using CiL a few years ago for live chats during games. I wouldn’t mind ponying up, however the cost is WAY out of my price range and I suspect the same will be true for many bloggers. I average about 150-250 clicks per game. I’ve never considered that a huge amount. But CiL’s “Starter” package is for 250 clicks per month for $10. That won’t even cover one game for me. Next price tier is $50/month for 2,500 clicks. I don’t know many bloggers who have or are willing to shell out $50/month.  When playoff hockey starts (or a special event like an outdoor hockey game), I’ve seen my clicks go up to 1,500 for one game (which is very rare for me to see that many clicks for one game but it has happened). If there are multiple playoff games in one month, I’d surpass the 2,500 click mark and have to go to the next tier… $150! I’m all for ponying up, but I’m NOT going to pony up $50 or $150/month for something I do for fun, and it’s not like the $2/month in Google Ads I make is going to cover it. I wouldn’t mind paying say $10/month to use their service with unlimited clicks, but no way in hell I’m paying $50 or $150/month with the limitations. That’s ridiculous. They pretty much just cut off all the little guys that use their service.

    • http://zombiejournalism.com Mandy

      That’s exactly the concern I had, too. Thanks for sharing – and I hope you find an alternative that works for your blog. Let me know if I can help.

    • http://twitter.com/jbatsell Jake Batsell

      @MichiganHockey, you raise some good points about the pricing structure. While I believe CiL has more than earned the right to start charging, it would be a shame if small bloggers like you (who are willing to pay to some degree) are completely priced out of the service.

  • Pelute

    One thing…do you know another programme like coveritlive free? I need it because I’ve a blog and I make live events…but well you know, we all are from the working class and pay for it…I don’t like it…so if you know any other you can told me, I need it…Thakn you!!!!:)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/miko.meltzer Miko Meltzer

    You should try to use RumbleTalk .
    It is HTML5 oriented and have a free version.

    What i especially like is the fact that you can talk from any mobile device.

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