When people around the world turned their eyes toward such monumental events as the Boston Marathon bombings and the Arab Spring uprising in Cairo's Tahrir Square, many of them got constant updates with the help of a Canadian technology.
Media outlets such as CNN, Reuters, The Associated Press and Al Jazeera used Toronto-based ScribbleLive to spread the news as it happened.
The technology allows users to blog in a live, continuous stream and interact with others; in these cases, readers. It's a new way to transmit and receive news, in keeping with the rapidly changing media industry.
ScribbleLive was born a few years when co-founders Michael De Monte and Jonathan Keebler were working at CTV in Toronto. They agreed the delivery of news was going to change, and they wanted to be in front of it.
"The existing content management systems had been around for a very long time, and we knew they were not up to the way stories were being told," Mr. De Monte said. "Social media was erupting, and it was morsel-based – little bits of information were being released … and the content management systems of the time were not built to deliver that."
He saw that a snapshot of most news websites looked the same three months later, but that social media was constantly changing. "That's when the light bulb went on."
Think of it as an evolution of the instant chat app, but with many more features and more commercial applications.
ScribbleLive went from an idea to a commercial reality after Mr. De Monte and Mr. Keebler developed it using money from their own wallets in 2008. It took off quickly, gaining clients and a strong reputation. It won a Company to Watch Award, as part of the 15th annual Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Awards in 2012, and just this week announced $8-million in new financing from an investment group, led by Georgian Partners, that also includes Export Development Canada, Summerhill Venture Partners and Rogers Venture Partners.
The company is growing in part because the idea behind it has taken root. Instead of concentrating information from one source and releasing it at a specific time – such as the evening news on TV – ScribbleLive allows for media companies to introduce and update information in real time and also interact with its audience at the same time.
That unprecedented ability is appreciated by those who cover breaking and developing stories. "The bulk of the marathon bombing coverage was over five days, and we had constant coverage," said Adrienne Lavidor-Berman, the social media producer for Boston.com and BostonGlobe.com. "A tremendous amount of attention came to our live blog, and people still wanted to read our full stories."
During their marathon bombing coverage, users of those sites not only received updates from the company's reporters, but also from the public, who could comment in real time, adding their observations – most of which would never have been uncovered if ScribbleLive did not exist.
While content from the audience can be valuable – Al Jazeera, for example, broadcasted real-time updates from Tahrir Square when all other media were effectively blacked out – it can also be off-topic, defamatory or otherwise without merit. ScribbleLive allows its users to keep control of the conversation through moderation – updates that are not useful to the overall topic can be instantly blocked or deleted.
That ability to moderate can make ScribbleLive especially valuable for commercial brands, too, and separates it from more traditional social media platforms. "It delivers control at the speed of social media," Mr. De Monte said. "Unlike other platforms in which a conversation can easily get out of control – like if Starbucks wanted to talk about coffee on Twitter, but someone else wanted to take over the hashtag for their own agenda – that wouldn't happen if they controlled the conversation from their own site."
Big commercial brands, such as Samsung, are taking advantage of this by using ScribbleLive to make real-time announcements with controlled user feedback.
And finally, ScribbleLive has become popular in a large part because it's easy to use – especially for those familiar with using social media such as Twitter. "We had a last-minute election to cover and I had to train a reporter to use ScribbleLive the same day," Ms. Lavidor-Berman said. "All he could say was: 'Is that it? It can't be that easy.'"