When Michael de Monte and Jonathan Keebler started Scribble Technologies Inc., they faced a challenge. When they left the CTV television network in July 2008 to concentrate on their Toronto startup, De Monte and Keebler knew the Internet was changing the way news is reported. But many of their potential customers had not yet seen the potential of real-time online reporting.
That’s changed, says De Monte, now Scribble’s chief executive. Major news organizations like The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Reuters and Associated Press use ScribbleLive, the company’s live-blogging tool. The Press Association, a British news service, used it to cover the recent London Olympics.
In recent months, De Monte says, CNN and ESPN have joined the ScribbleLive client list, and he plans soon to announce an expanded relationship with Associated Press.
With ScribbleLive, a reporter can update a story in real time on the web, and new content will appear automatically without the reader needing to refresh his or her browser screen. It can create complete Web pages matching the design of the rest of a Web site – not just a separate window for the live feed – and a feature called LiveArticle weaves updates into a news story that can be formatted like an ordinary story (wrapping around photos, for instance) but evolves over time.
Posting real-time updates was a technical challenge for ScribbleLive at first, De Monte says, as was finding the right hosting technology. But it was also tough convincing many in the media business that they needed this capability.
“Moving them toward a new way of telling stories is often a bit of a learning curve.”
That changed around 2010, he recalls. Prospective customers started saying “oh yeah, I’ve heard of you,” or “oh yeah, I’ve seen that.”
Now ScribbleLive is aiming to bring the social media revolution to traditional media, while at the same time expanding its reach beyond the media business.
A key advantage ScribbleLive has over competitors – such as CoveritLive from Demand Media in Santa Monica, Calif. – is that it makes it easy to share and syndicate content, De Monte says. In the next few months, he plans to announce new incentives for customers to do that, aiming to create a network effect reminiscent of major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Meanwhile Scribble is signing non-media customers, like Sun Life, Via Rail and Manulife. Such companies can use live blogging tools to communicate with employees, customers and news media, De Monte says. Via Rail plans to use it to communicate with media during crises.
The company has also opened its first international office, in the United Kingdom. De Monte says about 40 per cent of ScribbleLive’s market is in Europe.
Last fall, Scribble scored $4 million in financing from Toronto-based Summerhill Venture Partners. Brian Kobus, vice-president at Summerhill, says Scribble has an opportunity to define a significant market space, and “the team obviously knows this space very well. They’ve got a lot of credibility, having spent their careers doing it.”
After initially bootstrapping Scribble with their own money, De Monte and Keebler – now chief technology officer – got their first $350,000 in seed money from Rogers Communications Inc.’s Rogers Ventures unit late in 2009. The company has about 45 employees.
Grant Buckler is a freelance writer and editor with 30 years’ experience reporting on IT, telecommunications, and related areas. He is a regular contributor to ITBusiness.ca.