#NJSandy minimized scramble of Hurricane Sandy statewide coverage

Debbie Galant had decided to experiment with a live-blogging tool called ScribbleLive she’d encountered at the ONA gathering in San Francisco. ScribbleLive claimed to simplify curation and aggregation from social networks so reporting could be delivered in a live blog. In her role running the N.J. News Commons  at Montclair State University, Galant had planned to give ScribbleLive a spin crowd-sourcing coverage of the presidential debates.

“I wasn’t quite understanding it,” she said, so her trial account got back-burnered during the debate.  But shortly after, Paul Janzen – a sales rep with ScribbleLive offered to demo the tool. That was Oct. 26, just in time for Hurricane Sandy.  Together they set up a live #NJSandy “event” on ScribbleLive. 

NJ News Commons, based at Montclair State, monitors the coming hurricane and pulls together information from multiple news sources across the state.

“I did not have  a website yet to embed it,” Galant said Tuesday Oct. 30, the day after Sandy had landed in New Jersey.  Happily Galant still had electricity and  the  100 year old oaks in her neighborhood are still standing.

Galant had been was working with the ScribbleLive free trial version – good for 30 days. But because she had not built her own site yet, Scribblelive hosted #NJSandy for her,  giving her live blog much of the functionality of the white label sites used by major media players like Reuters. Unlike other live  live blogging tools —  like CoveritLive — which snatch the SEO fuel as their own, ScribbleLive leaves the keyword strength resident with the publisher.

Once she committed to coordinating statewide coverage of the storm, Galant spent the weekend populating the page and getting people interested in contributing and embedding it as a coverage tool on their sites.

While her husband drove, Galant spent the four hours to and from Clinton, N.Y. — where their son attends college— tethered to her  cell phone and laptop inviting and finalizing contributors.

“We had a very short visit with my son,”  she said, laughing.

“Before the storm hit, I had ten sites participating in one way or another to the #NJSandy event,” she said.

ScribbleLive is a Toronto-based company launched in 2008. Last year it had a staff of ten; this year it has 60 employees, said Paul Janzen, sales rep for Scribble. He describes ScribbleLive as a live content management system (CMS) .

“You can easily grab in tweets, blogs and take all that information and create what we call a live article,” he said.

The ScribbleLive free trial allows you to add only three Twitter accounts. Galant was selective, adding Jersey Shore Hurricane News — a service run by Justin Auciello, a concerned citizen who Galant discovered when she started managing new media initiatives with Montclair State University.

Auciello’s talent is collecting information and he is very careful about vetting and fact checking. “He even has this service called ‘Rumor Control,'”she said.  Her other “must follow” tweeters  were the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management and Bob Ingel, Senior Political Columnist for Gannett New Jersey

In total, her “reporting bureau” consisted of these three twitter accounts and 4 or 5 people who were actively filing.  In addition, she was actively moderating comments and seeking out additional good reporting, video and photographs from the Internet.

Galant’s strategy of inviting writers made sense for a one person bureau under pressure during a crisis when information is moving fast.  She invited writers she trusted so the stream would be trusted, not needing too much moderation.  But Janzen said a publisher doesn’t have to do it that way. Instead they can leave the  system open so anyone can post as a guest.

So how’d it go?

“I am a little bit worn out by trying to coordinate hurricane coverage for the whole state but you know when you are called you must serve,” Ganat said.

“In the end I thought it went really well,” she said. “Last night [Monday], we had more than 100,000 page views,” she said. “It really flew.” And, she added, during the storm “I had 1000 people on it at one time.”

One of the powers of the white label ScribbleLive — as in other private label live blogging systems — is Google juice. Google sees the continuous stream of live content and likes it.  “Because you are driving people to our sites. … the stickiness is huge,” Janzen said. He said statistically, it’s been found that the audience spends 47% more time on a ScribbleLive blog.

Galant points out that Jersey Shore Hurricane News started the weekend with 60,000 likes on its Facebook page and today after the #NJSandy live event — on the ground and on line — it has more than 120,000 likes.

Sites could participate by either contributing or by embedding the code for the site in their sites.  Partners included several publishers in the Block by Block network, including Denise Civiletti of RiverheadLocal, Gerard DeMarco of  Cliffviewpilot of ElizabethInsideOut as well as Baristanet, Morristown Green, The Boken, Hoboken 411, My VeronaNJSpotlight. Both New Jersey Public Radio and Patch embedded the code

Janzen said that creating a syndication marketplace is another way to add power to ScribbleLive and that a publisher’s advertising populates the white label sites. He said the backend shows views, viewers and very soon will include engagement, which will show the number of minutes an audience member is on the site.  In addition, ScribbleLive has SMS, email and phone-in capabilities.

At $1750 per month, the cost of a Scribble enterprise system is probably too rich for your average independent news site. But Janzen said Scribble would be happy to discuss setting up a special price point — say $350 per site—  for publishers like those in the Block by Block network or the newly formed LION Publishers association.

ScribbleLive has event-based pricing as well. The biggest issue there for a community news site would be to achieve scale  but it might work for a group of news sites covering a national event — such as the presidential election. _________________________________


The free versions of both Coveritlive and Scribblelive are embedded iframes. This is similar to embedding a video, ad or other live-blog solution on a site and while it does not add search-engine visible content, it also does not redirect search traffic elsewhere, said Ben Schneider of DemandMedia, which owns Coveritlive. ScribbleLive’s Paul Janzen confirmed that only ScribbleLive’s white-label offering offers additional SEO value to customer sites. These white label sites are  similar to CoveritLive’s  ChannelPages, Schneider said. Coveritlive does not do anything to detract SEO traffic from  customer’s sites and in fact, has a number of features that enhance SEO, Schneider said. 

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