Sunday, August 26, 2012

Liveblogging tools: Begging for Pricing Disruption

I know I said I would post on the conversation I had with the compere of the Etisalat event but there’s something that I need to get out of my head after an experience I had today. There was a time that I would go to tech events, live stream events, and update my blog through a live blog plugin. When I started out there was an EXCELLENT albeit ad supported tool for live blogging which was cover it live. Unfortunately, they discovered that free wouldn’t cut it and went to paid while leaving a free tier that has some strange restrictions on how many user actions can be performed on the live blog. That strikes me as a strange thing because that might mean that my live blog is not permanent. Once I go above the threshold for a particular event it’s shut down and I have to pay to ensure that it stays visible to future visitors of my blog.

So then I decided to look for some free alternatives out there. The main ones that I came across were the Wordpress plugin for live blogging, a site called Blyve and Wordfaire. There are many alternative sites though I believe that ScribbleLIVE and CoveritLive are the only two ones really worth considering.

What’s wrong with the other ones? Wordpress plugin is not really a liveblogging tool. In the sense that stuff doesn’t get pushed out to the viewers. It gets polled which isn’t the best solution if you are hosting it on your own server. The second option for that is to host your own meteor server which handles the pushing to the viewers but again, live blogging isn’t just for techies and therefore, the solution should not be tech intensive either.

Wordfaire is nice, but it’s in beta, isn’t all that feature rich and the worst part is that the embedding features are pretty bad. Not only do you have to customize your embedded live blog but as the event goes by you won’t find all the messages in it. It shows only a certain number of messages after which if you want to see the rest you have to visit the Wordfaire site itself to see the full list of messages. I imagine this is for advertising purposes but then that’s why I don’t like the idea of completely free either.

The best alternative I have found is Blyve. It isn’t almost as comprehensive as CoveritLive but it comes really really close. In the free tier you get 500 uniques per month. For a blog that sees only about double that activity for the entire blog for the whole month that seems like a pretty good deal. But the problem again is, what happens to the day when my visitors become substantial for my blog posts, but the number of live posts I do isn’t enough to justify paying a not insignificant amount monthly to use a live blogging service that still offers limitations on the number of actions/uniques per month it can serve?

The Per Instance Pricing Method

From everything that I’ve said I’m willing to bet that between those who pay monthly and those who use the free tier is a set of customers that are willing to pay some amount but use the free tier simply because they can’t justify paying a full monthly cost. What if any one of the above live blogging companies (I’d vote for CoveritLive and Blyve) came up with a model where people could purchase an instance of the liveblog for that particular post and pay a certain base amount based on the traffic that they expect to receive. If they receive substantial traffic after that they would receive a warning to pay for the next tier for that instance. This is unlikely to happen because unless your post is a really special event with global interest that gets voted to the top of reddit and hacker news, the traffic that you’d get would be fairly easy to estimate. So, step by step here’s how the payment would work

  1. I need to host a liveblog for this month’s Refresh Colombo. I visit the liveblog site and pay $4 for an instance of the liveblog which can host up to 500 unique visits for the duration. $2 for every additional 200 uniques I expect.
  2. The live blog is available and life goes on.

But of course what would happen once the event is over? If it’s a one time payment then the liveblog host bears a cost to keep that viewable in their system right? Here’s the cool part. Once the liveblog is complete, offer a snippet of HTML where all the content from the liveblog gets hosted across in the my site. That means all I have to do is copy that HTML and replace the iframe embed code in my site once the event is complete. This isn’t too tech intensive to be a problem and would solve almost all the problems for both parties. What problem does it not solve? The hosting of the pictures. If I want to host my pictures on CoveritLive or Blyve then they should charge me on a monthly basis OR better, move it across to Picasa or Flickr for me and give me the new HTML code which links to those pictures automagically. Boom.

This serves two main purposes. One is that I would be able to have a pricing that fits my needs and I’m sure, the needs of many people out there. And on a second equally important note, I would have some form of ownership of my data. Maybe the service doesn’t have to be Flickr or Picasa . Maybe they could offer to let me download the pictures so I can upload it to my own FTP if I’m at that level of tech savviness. And if they’ve named it right (for example, according to the time each picture was uploaded relative to the liveblog timeline) then I could simply do a find and replace to replace their URL with the base URL of my FTP.

This probably seems a little too complicated but at it’s most basic level, I pay for an estimated number of users, I get a new bit of HTML code to embed and I get to keep my photos for free in services I already use, or pay a small fee to let the live blogging company host it for me.

C&C is welcome.


  1. I prefer using twitter for this, simple, free, fast

    1. The thing is Sudara, Twitter is good for some stuff but then again, if you try looking for Refresh Colombo posts that happened in January you aren't going to be able to find it. Not unless someone archived all the links related to it. If they did that then all good but then you might as well live blog. Besides, there are so many features of live blogs that I'm not using right now. I did incorporate some of the tweets that were coming in that evening during Refresh Colombo, but if there are more viewers, you can have polls and stuff. There's definitely a lot more functionality for liveblogging. Twitter is fine for a shallow level of coverage of an event. But for an in depth, traceable, interactive coverage, liveblogging rules entirely.

      Although something interesting to note, I'd pay twitter to use a liveblogging platform based on top of their service.