True immediacy: Covering events live at your Web site
ONLINE COLUMN: Web Savvy
Published: March 17, 2009
|Some days technology seems a curse; after all, your back yard can now be seen in detail on Google Earth. But most days, technology is a blessing and the latest plus is being able to cover an event live from your Web site or blog. The software is free and doesn't clutter up your hard drive; it's easy to install. And Widget Box even offers a free C-Span player for streaming all sorts of government-related events direct to your readers in real time.|
|Start with the essential: Cover it Live. The Web site offers the software free, and there are upgrade options if you really want to get creative. I've used the freebie version but I plan to upgrade in the future. There's a non-invasive registration process. The Web site has complete tutorials that show you step-by-step setup. Basically once you complete the registration, you copy the code and paste it into your blog or website. This took me about 10 minutes.|
I pasted it into my own blog as though I were doing a column. Once you've set up the software, the graphic acts as a placeholder until your event begins. You'll log in to the Cover it Live Web site and click a link to get your event going. Then the fun begins.
The software enables you to blog and talk to your visitors. You may enable their comments or add special guests to a panel. I did an event recently and had many people lurking, but two visitors were commenting frequently, so I used a panel feature to allow their comments to flow along with mine. This can admittedly get dicey, because you're not vetting what you're publishing. But the bonus is you're covering an event live and engaging with your readers. Bear in mind you may need patience when it comes to freedom of expression; I did make sure there was no overt profanity.
|So that my visitors could see the actual event as it unfolded, I added a C-SPAN player to my page. I did this in the sidebar section of my blog. I grabbed the code from Widget Box—if you're not using this resource you are missing out on some real fun for your visitors. You simply copy the code and paste it onto your Web page. I placed mine in the sidebar.|
Thus my visitors could watch the event live and talk to me about it at the same time.
And it's all free.
I did a trial run before the big event. Then I deleted the trial event and set up a new placeholder for the actual event. That way I could familiarize myself with the software.
I promoted my first live session discreetly—I invited my friends on Facebook and sent an email to readers who opt in to my news list. I figured that way if things didn't go smoothly, I wouldn't "break a leg" in front of a wide audience. But the resources are so simple, anyone should be able to set them up and succeed.
There's a live event for every subject matter under the sun. You can take your laptop to any event and broadcast directly if you have a webcam. For celebrity interviews, addresses by government officials, committee hearings—for anything you'd like to cover with immediacy, this is a perfect fix.
Of course you can opt to simply use the Cover it Live software if there's no way to provide a video feed of what's going on. You can enhance this by placing related photos or other graphics on your site.
Once your event is over, you can leave the player in place and future visitors can see what was said.
Covering events live really draws visitors—it's all about the immediacy. There's no doubt this is a technology blessing for sure, especially for bloggers who are trying to build a platform and who are eager to use the latest tools to do so. When I did my first event, I felt the same way I used to feel when I did wire copy for United Press International—the adrenalin flow is hard to beat if you're a news junkie. And even if you're not, the process is just plain fun.
Cover it Live
Grab free software code from this website.
Grab code for your C-SPAN player here.
Widget, Blidget, Gadget
Our Web Savvy article on grabbing free content for your website.
--Posted March 17, 2009
In our next Web Savvy, we explore the interplay of words and technology. How do you optimize your headlines for the Web? How do you set up your content to better increase your chances for search engine pickup? How is the Web impacting our writing style? Tune in!
Kay B. Day
Florida journalist Kay B. Day has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. The author of two books, she has written for The Christian Science Monitor, United Press International, The Florida Times-Union and Sky News. To read Kay's other Web Savvy columns about writing for the Web, click here.