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CoveritLive switches to paid-only service

Popular liveblogging platform CoverItLive has announced the end of its free usage tier, becoming an entirely paid for subscription service.

In an email to current subscribers the company wrote:

CoveritLive is introducing new monthly subscription plans based on active usage. These plans provide customers full access to all of CoveritLive’s Premium features – previously unavailable to Basic plan customers — including event feeds, event groups and homepages, live webcam and access to the CoveritLive API. Additionally, we have released several new features including a new dashboard with enhanced metrics, simplified Facebook event implementation and improved user management tools.

With the availability of the new plans and features, we will transition all CoveritLive Basic customers (including your current account) to a new Trial plan on July 1st 2012. The Trial plan will still allow you complete access to CoveritLive functionality for free and with no time limit, but it will now place a limit of 25 event “clicks” (active users who click into or engage with an event) per month on your account.

CoveritLive’s ‘Starter’ subscription costs $9.99 per month and allows for 250 viewers per  month, their ‘Standard’ tier costs $149 per month and allows for up to 10,000 viewers. The current Basic plan for the service will end on 1 July.

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Opinion: Birmingham students outshine Mail and Post in riot coverage

The Manchester Evening News has proved that long-established newspapers can shine online, following Roy Greenslade’s criticisms of some London local newspaper publishers for what he considered weak web riot coverage, with their focus instead being on print editions.

The MEN had around 25,000 people viewing its liveblog at any one time between 8pm and 11pm last night (9 August), one of the paper’s digital editors, Lee Swettenham, told Journalism.co.uk.

We didn’t want to fan any flames so held off from liveblogging until something concrete happened.

The liveblog was started shortly after 6pm, once it was clear riots were taking place in Manchester and Salford.

We had half a dozen reporters out tweeting and taking pictures from the whole area.

We received thousands of comments on the liveblog, including lots of very positive feedback. We were providing information such as travel news.

MEN used liveblogging platform Cover it Live which “worked perfectly” despite heavy traffic.

It shows that if you do it properly online the audience and interest is there.

We shone compared with a lot of the national media. It just shows how valuable we still are.

But where the MEN excelled, readers of the Birmingham Post could be forgiven for failing to realise rioting had taken place in the city.

Just two of the five top stories on the home page carousel are about the riots, the others include a cinema reopening as an independent, a story how a Hong Kong “newspaper shakeup gives Birmingham City investment hope” and a top story about Dragon’s Den. Sister title the Birmingham Mail had more riot coverage on its home page but its site design means it failed to shine (see pictures below which illustrate this).

UPDATE: Responding in the comments section below, David Higgerson, who is head of multimedia at Trinity Mirror, explains the stats prove readers have been going to the Mail and Post for news of the riots and more.

Both sites have seen unprecedented levels of traffic over the past three days, and have devoted many, many man hours to covering the story in a responsible way. The riots coverage is prominent on the home page, but our traffic analysis also demonstrates that people are interested in more than just the riots – hence the promotion of other content on the site. In the case of the Birmingham Post, it is a relied upon source of business information for the city and people expect to be able to find that too. The Birmingham City Football Club story you reference is a very important story, and has been very well read.

Like the MEN, and the Liverpool Echo, the Birmingham Mail and Post sites have run a live blog, and will continue to have reporters working in difficult circumstances to ensure we bring our readers the best possible coverage.

Your analysis of the Post and Mail v the Redbrick coverage seems to centre on not liking our front page design. That’s purely a matter of taste. If you apply the logical web publishing question of ‘Can people find the content they are looking for?’ to our home page, then there’s no doubt those looking for riot coverage will find it, as will those people looking for the content they also expect – other news, business news, sport and so on.

Wolverhampton’s Express and Star, which is behind a part-paywall does well, making its riot coverage available to non-subscribers.

Compare the home page of the Trinity Mirror-owned Birmingham Post (which does have riot video content further down its front page) and sister title the Mail with that of Redbrick, the University of Birmingham’s student newspaper.

Hardly surprising, therefore, that Redbrick has seen 93,000 visits and 148,000 page views since 7 August. And because it is summer, and most students are out of the city, it has been co-ordinated from afar. The editor, Glen Moutrie, an economics student, is in Singapore, and just two student reporters are on the ground getting stories.

Moutrie told Journalism.co.uk how he has been coordinating coverage “quite easily”:

We are doing a lot of it through Twitter, keeping a check on hashtags and following things up.

I’ve also been chatting on Facebook and have managed to do things such as organise a statement from the MP.

Meanwhile The West Londoner, a blog that is the work of another student covering the riots, has seen a million views in one day.

So if a group of unpaid students can get to the heart of the story when the editor is the other side of the world, newspapers which have suffered the closure of their town centre offices in favour of out-of town news hubs should be able to cope.

That is exactly what happened at the Hackney Gazette, which moved from its Cambridge Heath Road office, a short walk from the location of looting on Monday night, to Ilford, Essex, which is nine miles away.

But far from being removed from the story, the Archant-owned weekly has one reporter who works from their Hackney home.

Emma Bartholomew was able to get on her bike and go in search of the story. She described the scene she was reporting on as “a little intimidating”, as she witnessed bricks were being thrown by rioters.

It seems location is less important as long as some reporters are able to go out, tweet, upload videos and get the story. The problem, as Greenslade said, is not to do with the journalists who have shown themselves to be perfectly capable, but with their print-minded publishers.

The problem could not be clearer. Local newspapers remain wedded to print. They are just not set up to report online, even if their journalists have engaged with new media tools.

So long-established local newspapers must focus on their online content, on site design, allowing a story to have sufficient impact if they are not to be outshone by students working without a budget and with an editor posting from the other side of the world.

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#J30: How to use online tools to report national strikes

Some news outlets are reporting that today will see the biggest day of industrial action for 30 years. But the news landscape and tools used in reporting the strikes are a world away from the 1980s.

Here is a quick round-up to inspire ideas for coverage.

The nationals are providing an overview and inspiring debate, but many readers will be turning to local news sites to find out which schools are closed and which services disrupted.

  • A simple list is perhaps the most accessible way of accessing information, as created by hyperlocal Uckfield News;

For more tools and guidance on how to use Storify, Audioboo, OpenHeatMap, Many Eyes and Qik, check out this guide to livening up local election reporting.

For ideas in adding audio, follow these 10 tips.

Related content:

How to: get to grips with data journalism

How to: liveblog – lessons from news sites

How to: get started using Google Fusion tables

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ScribbleLive: Four ways to make money from liveblogging

Liveblogging platform ScribbleLive claims to have come up with four different ways that news organisations can make money from liveblogging, a form of reporting described by Matt Wells, blogs editor of the Guardian, as “native to the internet” and an area he would “throw resources at the expense of writing another 300 word article”.

“It is interesting how incredibly sticky the liveblog audience is, particularly for true liveblogs that are updated minute by minute,” Mark Walker from ScribbleLive told Journalism.co.uk.

What is appealing to advertisers, Walker explained, is that “there is a significant audience that just stays on the page for half an hour or more”.

Here are four ideas put forward by ScribbleLive, which offers the technology to implement the various options within a standard licence to its liveblogging platform.

1. Rotating ads

Liveblogging should be “something you monetise more like television than print”, Walker told Journalism.co.uk, suggesting that sites trial rotating ads.

Walker would not divulge his clients’ names but said a number had been very successful in adopting this approach, using technology which allows ads to rotate at a rate of one per minute.

They are able to generate $16 page CPMs, so every time a page is displayed they are making about $16 per 1,000 [viewers], that’s simply because people are staying for a long time, some for half an hour or more.

He suggested that liveblogs provide web content at a relatively low cost.

There is no incremental cost to creating the content as the journalist will be at the trial, at the election, at the event.

2. Sponsored events

The most profitable way to monetise liveblogs is though sponsorship, according to Walker.

It is impossible to pre-sell sponsorship advertising for many breaking news stories such as an earthquake, Walker pointed out, but sponsorship for some major news stories can be pre-planned. The Royal Wedding was one example, severe weather is another – and perhaps the most interesting.

Walker said severe weather liveblogs in the US and Canada have pre-sold sponsorship where a company selling snow tyres, for example, becomes the brand that brings you the liveblog on the school closures, traffic delays and general disruption.

One thing you can tell an advertiser is when we have severe weather this is how we are going to cover it. We will put your brand all over it and we will own the eyeballs of the public who will be coming to our site, in some cases, for hours at a time.

Walker also suggested another example of potential for sponsorship is a liveblog on key financial updates, with the spending review springing to mind.

He also urged media organisations, particularly the more traditional print media, to consider monetising liveblogs covering reality television and sports.

3. Live advertorial

Here is one option that will be more appealing to advertising sales people than to journalists: the liveblog of an advertorial.

Walker, speaking from his base in Canada, suggested a company within the private medical care field would be an obvious (though more US than UK) potential advertiser, with a liveblog involving a discussion with doctors. He also put forward an idea holding a debate around new green technologies to promote an area of the solar energy business.

The conversation is being influenced by the advertisers and you can make it clear it is brought to you by the brand and that the liveblog is useful to readers.

4. Embedded liveblogs within ads

ScribbleLive has come up with a second liveblogging advertorial option, this time within an advert itself.

The conversation is distributed across the site but you can drive [your audience] to a page within the property or to a page on the sponsor’s site.

You can charge a premium as it is a very engaging type of ad. And the conversation might not be driven by the brand at all. You could say we are talking to a celebrity but it’s sponsored by a brand.

In considering all of the above options it is worth remembering which liveblogs get the most traffic.

The biggest events that ever go through the ScribbleLive network, the things that tend to skew it, are major national disasters and breaking news, but they are nowhere close as far as peaks in users as Apple events and Google events when we see spikes in many hundreds of thousands in matters of seconds. That really shows the value of liveblogs.

For more on liveblogging, including examples from the Guardian, the Manchester Evening News and a hyperlocal, see: How to: liveblog – lessons from news sites

Related content:

Manchester Evening News wins innovation award for police data project

MEN extends liveblogging of council meetings after successful trial

Al Jazeera still battling interference in Egypt after internet blackout lifted

Northampton Chronicle & Echo to open up newsroom with liveblog

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Twitter, comments, and the reaction to Rowenna Davis’ NHS surgery liveblog

 

Last week, Guardian journalist and newly-elected Labour councillor for Southwark Rowenna Davis used Twitter to liveblog the heart operation of a two-week-old girl at Great Ormond Street hospital.

Her updates were also posted on the Guardian’s NHS liveblog alongside photos she took during the surgery (see above) and tweets from followers.

Going through Davis’ @ messages and tweets that used the #nhsblog hashtag shows the response on Twitter was, as she said, “overwhelmingly positive”. The Media Blog called it “A perfect use of Twitter“.

But interestingly, the response on the Guardian’s Comment is free site, where Davis blogged about the reaction to her coverage, was almost completely the opposite.

The comments that follow the CiF post are almost overwhelmingly negative, with Davis’ live coverage of the surgery called, “mawkish”, “ghoulish”, “a stunt”, “revolting sensationalism”, and more.

An interesting point of comparison for the coverage, which has been raised in the CiF comment thread, is broadcast, but it is hard to see people reacting quite the same way about a fly-on-the-wall documentary.

A few commenters suggested the problem with Davis’ liveblog was that it was live, and that the risk to the girl’s life made that inappropriate (according to Davis the operation carried a 1 or 2 per cent risk). Whereas a documentary, commenter davidabsalom said, would be recorded in advance.

But Channel 4 screened a series of programmes in 2009 that showed live surgery, during which viewers were invited to interact with the surgeons using Twitter, email and the telephone.

Channel 4’s David Glover said at the time that the programme was designed to “demystify surgery, encourage discussion and help viewers to understand their own bodies, as well as showing the care, dedication and skill that goes into modern surgery”.

Ofcom archives show no record of any complaints about the programme (less than 10 complaints are not recorded).

The Surgery Live patients were adults, rather than children as in this case, but Davis obtained consent from the girl’s parents. And the operations – brain, heart, and stomach surgery – seem no less risky than the one in this case.

So I can’t help but wonder whether the discrepancy between the responses on Twitter and on CiF stems from the medium itself, with those who use Twitter – and so responded via the network – much more likely to see the coverage in a positive light, and those on Comment is Free more likely to construe it negatively. (I can’t assess how many of those who commented on the CiF post use Twitter, so this is something of a shot in the dark).

Davis has responded several times in the comment thread to defend the journalistic value of her coverage, including this post:

I think one key dividing line about whether this is defensible is intention. If you’re just blindly seeking ratings for entertainment value, that’s pretty grim. But if your aim is to offer some kind of insight into the reality of the job surgeons face and the trials families have to go through, that seems quite different. Especially when it helps bring to light the importance of the health service, and how vital it is that we get the reforms right.

That said, I think the points you are raising are valid, and it’s important to raise them. There are certainly ways in which I could see this being done insensitively.

You can follow the full debate here.

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The Guardian’s Matt Wells on live blogging the Egypt protests, in Arabic

Followers of the Guardian’s Egypt protests live blog in the last few days may have noticed short passages of Arabic text appearing amid the blog’s customary roster of updates, summaries and other multimedia.

Then later an entire news article or two appearing on the site in the unfamiliar language.

I spoke to blogs editor Matt Wells about the decision to translate the Guardian’s coverage into Arabic.

It began a few days back when one of the newspaper’s journalists suggested embedding Google’s translate button, which automatically translates any webpage, into the live blog. With independent news organisations such as Al Jazeera harassed by the state and foreign journalists reportedly suffering obstruction and detention, impartial Arabic-language news is not necessarily readily available in Egypt.

“The news there is dominated by state-run media,” Wells said, “and unofficial sources are mostly in English or under-resourced.”

Online translation services, however, are generally not very accuarate, even if Google has come a long way since the early days of Yahoo’s BabelFish.

The Guardian asked a native Arabic speaker in the office to take a look, and she confirmed that it “wasn’t exactly 100 per cent accurate”.

Then the blogs team put it to the readers, asking, what do you think of the Google translate service? We’ve had our native Arabic speaker cast her eye over it and don’t think it’s accurate enough.

Proving that reader comments aren’t the trash they get slated as by some, one reader joined the dots that the staff hadn’t.

If you have a native Arabic speaker, why don’t you translate some of it yourself?, they asked.

And so the Guardian started publishing live blog summaries in Arabic, and will be translating two or three news articles a day with the help of a professional service, Wells said.

“Clearly we are not going to become an Arabic news service, but we saw it as a useful feature.

“It is more of a gesture to our readers to show that we are appreciative of our audience in that region and of the fantastic response we’ve had.”

Wells said that the Guardian’s commitment to community management was key to the live blogging strategy, especially with coverage like that of the Egypt protests. The paper has two dedicated community managers – Laura Oliver and James Walsh – who sit and work with the news teams but “have the specific brief of engaging with readers in the comments below the line and on Twitter.”

That means flagging up useful information posted by users, pulling material into the live blogs from elsewhere and responding to comments or letting reporters know when it might be best for them to do so. It is a role that the Guardian is serious about developing, Wells said.

“It results in a much more engaged and two-way conversation with the users.”

As for the live blogging, there is no doubt that the Guardian likes, and does a lot of it. With more than 250,000 hits a day for the Egypt live blog alone, Wells called it the “centrepiece” of the paper’s coverage.

“This time it really feels like we’ve pushed on the form again.”

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Guardian reprimanded by readers for comments on Cumbria shootings liveblog

June 2nd, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

Commenters on Guardian.co.uk’s liveblog covering the shootings in Whitehaven today challenged the site over its decision to publish comments on the blow-by-blow coverage.

The liveblog, a format which has been used to good effect by the Guardian previously, particularly for its G20 coverage and Andrew Sparrow’s election coverage, has been aggregating news coverage of the events as they unfold and updating with police information and eyewitness statements.

But commenters have taken the site to task for leaving the blog open to readers and asking for comments and information to be posted in the comments section:

I think having a comment section on this is pretty ghoulish and in bad-taste (…) Best just to let the truth come out properly instead of this rolling, almost certainly erroneous way of doing things.

Yes, as earlier commenters have said, please switch the comments off. It is legitimate – and might even help save lives – for the media to seek minute-by-minute updates from people there and quickly broadcast any information that is relevant. But it does not have to be public.

Fortunately, and to the site’s credit, editor Janine Gibson stepped in with this comment:

There are very good technical reasons to cover a fast unfolding story in this way, which are nothing to do with turning into Fox News but are to do with speed of publishing and being able to correct things quickly.

However, we’ve discussed it and think the bulk of commenters are correct, it’s not a particularly useful way to source information on a story such as this, so we will turn the comments off.

Thanks to those who raised it constructively.

(Hat tip – @jonslattery)

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PDA: Andrew Sparrow on liveblogging the general election

May 10th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism

For the 2010 general election, the Guardian’s senior political correspondent Andrew Sparrow has been tasked with liveblogging the event on an almost daily basis. In this post for PDA he explains his approach, the practical considerations and the benefits for journalists and readers:

I live blog a lot and I believe the format – minute-by-minute updates, combining news, analysis and links – allows journalists to report events with more thoroughness and immediacy than if they are just writing stories (…) If journalism is the first draft of history, live blogging is the first draft of journalism. It’s not perfect, but it’s deeply rewarding – on any day, I was able to publish almost every snippet that I thought worth sharing, which is not the case for anyone who has to squeeze material into a newspaper – and it beats sitting on a battlebus.

On a typical day the site’s liveblog generated between 100,000 and 150,000 page views, rising to 2 million on election night, adds Sparrow.

Full post at this link…

See the results of our poll on the best journalists, tweeters and bloggers of #ge2010…

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#soe09: Live coverage online – opportunities for audience and money?

The benefits of using social media sites, predominantly Twitter, to cover live news events, newsgather and let the readers in were stressed by speakers from Sky News, Trinity Mirror, NWN Media and Northcliffe in a session at the Society of Editors conference today.

Sky’s social media correspondent (once titled ‘Twitter correspondent’) Ruth Barnett explained what had been learned since her role was created:

“We’d be very foolish as journalists not to be part of this interaction (…) I use it as a newswire – not one as valuable verifiable and reliable as PA, but as a good source of leads, eye witnesses and trends.

“If we can tweet our own breaking news it allows us to be proud of it, own it and direct traffic back to us.”

But there’s more to come: Trinity Mirror multimedia head David Higgerson emphasised the need to work with the audience to improve the use of tools such as CoveritLive.

“The big lesson that we need to learn is that we need to involve the audience more. If people want more passive coverage we’ve got the BBC, which is not to be critical of the BBC, but it can be hard to interact with it,” said Higgerson.

There needs to be experiments with livestreaming video into liveblogs, he added, and newspapers should start looking at the potential of  tools like Audioboo. There’s no reason Audioboo, for example, couldn’t be used for more in-depth reporting, such as livecasting election results, he explained.

But the biggest challenge is finding a way to work with the ‘army of citizen journalists':

“We need to go to them and our reporters need to be building relationships with them. If we can engage with them on local terms we can create a potent force for live news.”

But it was Hull Daily Mail editor John Meehan who suggested that liveblogging and live-tweeting could be a revenue opportunity for news groups:

“If paid content on the web is part of our salvation we have an obligation to develop services that go far beyond news and traditional reporting (…) It used to be paid-for live coverage in print (…) Covering it live on the web, real-time and interactive, may be one of the keys to earning revenue from content published online,” said Meehan, who used the Mail’s coverage of transfer deadline day in September as an example (500 posts on CoveritLive by journalists; 6,200 comments received on all-day liveblog).

“We’ve got no plans to make them pay for it, but I think we as an industry should have an eye on where we can make money from. If that many people are going to spend that much time on a service, they really value that service (…) Mainstream news is a commodity; we need to find the things that aren’t commoditised.”

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One Man and His Blog: Liveblogging or livetweeting?

Adam Tinworth looks at the positives and negatives of covering a live event with Twitter – and comes out with some handy suggestions for any journalists looking to use the tool for live coverage.

“The real time web is important, and significant. But that doesn’t mean that the old web, the archived, static web, isn’t still of value. Twitter coverage is dispersed, and fades away as the moment passes. Archive content has real utility as reference and grist for the conversational mill in the weeks that follow.”

Full post at this link…

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