Want to blog events in real time? Look no further.
CoverItLive is a new hosted service for blogging events in real time, or "liveblogging." It's a useful tool for people covering major industry events, speeches, sports, and the like. I first saw the product in use when I was watching the CrunchGear team cover the Bill Gates keynote at CES.
I've liveblogged several events myself in the past, but I've used tools not designed for the job. My hack has been to set up a unique Twitter account for each event and embed a widget from that account into my blog (example: YouTube's Steve Chen interviewed at the NewTeeVee Live conference). It works, but only barely, and the feature set is not ideal. In contrast, CoverItLive's design and features are, basically, awesome. There are some issues that might give big publishers slight pause, but the product is off to a great start.
Setting up a CoverItLive account is fast and free, and once you've done so you can either jump straight into liveblogging or schedule upcoming events. Liveblog content is all hosted on CoverItLive, and you put it on your blog by pasting in a small snippet of HTML code.
Features you get as publisher, in addition to really easy-to-use IM-like text-entry window, include the capability to take comments from readers and post the ones you like in your stream; live polls; and the option to post either canned or new pictures and videos. CoverItLive also provides publishers with statistics on their live viewership, which is very useful.
Once a writer tells the system that the event is over, CoverItLive converts the blog into a static block of text, which users can read in a scrolling window. Pictures and polls that were pop-ups during the live event are inserted at the correct locations in the timeline.
The service is free to use and carries no advertising. CoverItLive's Keith McSpurren told me he'll look at monetization strategies in the future, including advertising and possibly paid "pro" or downloadable versions, but for at least the next 12 months, the entire system is free.
McSpurren also told me that because of the the way the system is built, it scales to supporting far more users than chat-only products like UserPlane. He said it can easily handle "hundreds of thousands" of simultaneous viewers. I was not able to verify this.
I like this system a lot, even though there are some small issues with it. For example, all content published in a CoverItLive liveblog is hosted on the CoverItLive servers, not on the blog it's embedded in, which means that it's not searchable on the blog site. That could be fixed by having CoverItLive convert liveblogs to ordinary blog posts after the event, but McSpurren has yet to launch that feature. And again, because the content is hosted elsewhere, any context-sensitive advertising that appears on a host blog's page won't pick up the content in the liveblog, potentially hurting ad revenues a little bit.
For publishers who want to host all content on their own servers, there may be a downloadable version of the software at some later date.
But this is a great system and I expect to see it used a lot. I expect several outlets will be liveblogging the MacWorld Steve Jobs keynote on Tuesday with it, although at the moment the only confirmed site I know of is the GeekBriefTV site.