A Steve Jobs keynote is technology journalism's Super Bowl equivalent. And as with the Super Bowl, they're best enjoyed in real time. Thus the healthy growth of the live-blogging platform CoverItLive, which enables journalists to file live reports that are transmitted, as they type them, to their online readers.
The company, started in 2007, has been growing well and winning the support of journalists not just in the technology realm, but in sports, politics, and other fields. It has become the largest live-blogging platform there is. The embedded CoverItLive live blog player is popping up on sites across the Web. (For a sample CoverItLive live blog, see this replay of a Google press announcement.)
But CoverItLive fell apart during the January 27 iPad announcement. Just as the event was getting started, incoming Apple fans were turned away from embedded CoverItLive live blogs on important sites like TUAW, MacWorld, and MacNN. Readers quickly abandoned many of these sites and headed to others, like Gdgt, that were using home-grown live-blogging tools. To stop readers from leaving, some sites, such TUAW, abandoned CoverItLive on the spot and began publishing frequent updates on their standard platforms. Regardless, it appeared to be a disaster for the small live-blogging company.
The Steve Jobs keynote also temporarily overwhelmed other sites, including CNET News and our sister site ZDNet (read what went wrong). CoverItLive competitors include services like Scribble Live and live video services like Qik and Justin.tv.
This was not CoverItLive's first failure during a Steve Jobs keynote. On January 15, 2008, during the MacBook Air announcement, the platform also collapsed. Since then, CoverItLive flourished nonetheless, winning over journalists in other fields, mostly in sports and politics, who started to use the product regularly. And then the tech sites started to come back.
Sites like MacNN used the service to great advantage. Publisher Monish Bhatia says that building his own live-blogging platform would have been too expensive, and that CoverItLive offered a good blend of features. MacNN used it about six times before the recent failure, he said. But, he told me, "I wish they were a paid service." He wanted a contract to fall back on with the company should anything go wrong.
Between the 2008 failure and the recent one, CoverItLive has not had a failure during a major live event. And many of these events, such as President Obama's Nobel Prize acceptance speech in December of 2009, got more live blog traffic (9 million views) than a Steve Jobs keynote had until then.
So what is it about Jobs' keynotes that is so toxic to CoverItLive? And how can the company regain the trust of tech journalists?