August 03, 2010

Echo Debuts Real-Time River, Highlights Reader Activity

After declaring the world of traditional comments dead last year, Echo has continued its quest to bring the world of real time reactions from around the Web to publishers looking to surface more engagement with their community. Today, Echo introduces a product they call "Echo River", which brings responses from commenters to media stories practically to equal footing of that of the author, raising the visibility and surfacing real-time feedback that practically promises to make sites more sticky as users participate.

Last month, Echo introduced a "Recent Comments" widget, which brought the newest responses to the front of the site. This new real-time widget updates live, not requiring refresh. It plays a key role in this morning's update, as the comments widget runs alongside River-enabled sites, which also display real-time comment counts for new entries, and nests the reactions (be they from comments on the site, Twitter, Digg or other sources) below the entry.

Echo, which has a wide array of large media customers in its roster, highlighted its River offering with staged demos on, TechCrunch and Mashable. The River function even managed to pull comments from disparate technology sources, such as WordPress (on TechCrunch) and Disqus (from Mashable). This move further separates Echo from its assumed competition, and puts them more into the real-time space, rather than vanilla comments.

"Displaying conversations on the home page in this way changes the way people see the front page of a typical news site," said Chris Saad, VP of Strategy for Echo in a press release. "Readers get to see a summary of what people like them are saying right from the front page, getting a new perspective on the headlines of the day... This new product continues our mission to turn static web pages into vibrant real-time experiences, driving Facebook style engagement on our publisher sites."

While the old way of comments might be dead, by their positioning, what this new product does do, for its premium members, is practically give sites' community equal prominence to that of the original writer, who sees their work do battle with often opinionated readers. And if a conversation flareup does ignite, Echo will show each update in real time. It's enough of a push that the service's executives used lofty phrases about changing the world of publishing "one product at a time", fighting against a world of static media.

For premium subscribers to Echo, adding the new River functionality is simple, just requiring a little Javascript code. The company says the River can be customized as to its content and appearance.

Disclosure: Chris Saad of Echo and I occsionally co-host the Edge Theory Conversations podcast.