Arena Review: Real-Time Liveblogging for WordPress Sites

With the growth of the Internet, people want their information in real time. Having a recap blog post of an event after it finished is too late – you need to be blogging while the event is happening.
This is a strategy that big organizations have definitely adopted. I first encountered this while seeing the New York Times live blog the 2020 Democratic debates. As the debate was happening, a variety of New York Times contributors were blogging their thoughts on the action in real time…and I have to admit I found it pretty addicting to participate.
Another example of this liveblogging trend is sports – pretty much every major organization live blogs along with big sporting events nowadays.
Arena lets you bring that same type of liveblogging to your WordPress site. If you cover any type of live event, from sports to politics to news and more, I think this is a really interesting tool to consider to engage with your audience.
Beyond liveblogging, Arena also includes tools to help you create an event chat, a tool to monitor the social web to bring in outside opinions, other social media integrations, and some neat sports-specific features (as liveblogging sporting events is probably one of the biggest use cases).
Keep reading our hands-on Arena review to learn what this tool does and how it works on WordPress.
Arena Review: Key Features
At a high level, Arena is a liveblogging platform for real-time events. Again, one popular example would be sporting events. If you’re into sports, you’ve probably seen big platforms liveblogging various events. Here’s an example of what it might look like:

Arena helps you do that on your WordPress site.
Live blogs also often mix in content from social media. For example, Tweets from other people who are reacting to the event. To help you include user-generated content, Arena includes its own content discovery platform that lets you monitor Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, Instagram, and RSS and easily include that content in your live blog.
There’s also a live chat tool to help you further engage with your readers. And to help keep this live chat from devolving into a spamfest (which can happen even with big organizations), Arena includes an automatic moderation tool powered by machine learning.
In total, Arena includes:
Real-time livebloggingSocial media stream for curationLive chatReal-time analyticsCross-posting to Twitter and FacebookEditorial team collaboration featuresMonetization features
You can also give everyone in your organization an account so that they can liveblog from their own computers (or via the mobile apps!).
If you’re liveblogging sports events, Arena also has some great sports-related features.
For example, it has a built-in sports calendar that lets you choose pre-made events. When you choose an event, Arena will automatically import the team/athlete information, including player headshots.
Arena can also automatically sync the score to liveblog posts. You can even add automatic or moderated play-by-play commentary (or, you can disable this to stick to your own content).
All in all, it’s an impressively detailed tool, as you’ll see when I show you how Arena works in the hands-on section.
Arena Pricing
Arena offers a limited free plan that works for small sites. It supports up to 5,000 page views per month and the core features.
To raise the limits and gain access to additional features, the paid plans start at $49 per month:

You can also test out any paid plan with a 14-day free trial – no credit card required.
Hands-On With Arena
Now, let’s go hands-on and I’ll show you how Arena works on WordPress. There are two parts to Arena on WordPress – the WordPress plugin and the Arena dashboard.
You’ll create and manage your liveblogging events from the Arena dashboard. Then, the WordPress plugin lets you easily insert them into your WordPress content via a dedicated block.
To get started, all you need to do is:
Register for an account at the Arena website – again, there’s a limited free plan as well as a 14-day free trial for the premium plans.Install the free Arena plugin from WordPress.org.Go to Settings → Arena in your WordPress dashboard and log in to your Arena account using your credentials.Choose your WordPress site from the drop-down (in case you have multiple sites connected to Arena).
Now, here’s how everything else works…
Create a Liveblog Event in Arena
The main Arena dashboard looks like this:

There are a lot of features, some of which I’ll touch on later. But for now, let’s just focus on creating a new event. 
When you’re creating you first event, you get a nice walkthrough that takes you through the process:

First, you’ll choose what the event is about. I’m going to create my own event for the Lakers vs Heat NBA finals, so I’ll choose Sports and then select Basketball:

This opens up another window where I can select the league and then choose the exact game:

As you can see, the sports integration is really in-depth, which is great if you’re liveblogging sports.
If you want, you can enable automatic play-by-play, which will automatically add commentary for important events from Arena’s journalists. Or, feel free to disable it to keep it all your own content.
Next, you can set up the social media integrations. You can connect to various networks to use Arena’s social stream feature to pull in user-generated content. You can either manually choose what content to post or auto-post it. There’s even sentiment analysis and filtering:

For example, if you have a fan blog for the Miami Heat, you could opt to only pull in positive comments about the Heat and negative comments about the Lakers. You can also filter by hashtag, which is cool if you’re running your own hashtag promotion alongside the event.
Next, you’ll add the event details. If you chose a pre-existing event, Arena will automatically fill them in for you:

Next, you can choose whether to enable audience interaction features. You have two options:
Let users comment on individual live blog posts.Enable the live chat room.

Finally, you can set up monetization for your event, if desired. If you want to monetize your event, Arena will help you automatically insert ads from your chosen ad platform:

And that’s it! All done. Now, it’s time to add the event to your WordPress site.
Insert Your Liveblog in WordPress
To begin, you should create a new post, page, or custom post type using the regular WordPresss editor – whatever type of content you want to use for your liveblogging. You can set up the title, categories, etc. using WordPress’ normal settings.
Then, to get liveblogging, add the new Liveblog block from Arena. Then, click the Select Liveblog button to choose the event that you created in the previous step:

This will open a popup where you can see all of your events. You can use the drop-down to choose from three different embed options:
EmbedAMPiframe
Then, click Add to add your event:

Just like that, you have a live blog on your site!
Here’s what it looks like with the Astra theme template I’m using. You can also see the live chat:

Adding Content to Your Live Blog
To create the actual live blog posts, you’ll use the Arena interface. There are two cool things to note here:
You can add as many team members as needed – everyone on your team can have their own account to communicate.Arena offers mobile apps, so you (or your team members) can live blog from wherever you are. You don’t need to be at a computer.
When you’re liveblogging sports events, there are some really neat integrations. For example, you can tag specific events, like a great dunk from Lebron. You can also tag the score at the moment that you’re posting (and Arena can even auto-fill this to make your life easier):

Your post will then automatically show up on the liveblog. The important thing here is that there’s no page reload required – it appears as soon as you post it no matter what:

You’ll also be able to manage other parts of your live event from the Arena site.
For example, in the Live Chat tab, you can interact with people in the live chat, curate social media from the stream, set up moderation rules, and more.
In the Streams tab of the Live chat, you can see the social media content that Arena has automatically discovered. Then, you can post it with a single click (or you can also allow auto-posting, as I showed you earlier):

You’ll also get other areas to monitor audience personas, analytics, monetization, and more.
Final Thoughts
Arena wasn’t my first exposure to liveblogging. As I mentioned in the intro, I’ve seen this tactic used by a lot of big news and sports publishers. However, Arena is my first exposure to how you could easily do this on your WordPress site.
Overall, I was impressed by how detailed Arena is, especially for the sports use case that I demo’d. It goes way beyond just letting you post some content. For example, I thought it was really cool how it automatically synced all the sports information. When I chose the Lakers vs Heat event, Arena was able to automatically pull in all of the players and details so I had them right there when adding content. The same is true for being able to automatically monitor social media and include user-generated content.
While you’ll still need to manage your event from the Arena website, the WordPress integration plugin makes it really easy to add events to your site without needing to fuss around with embed codes.
If you want to test it out, you can use the free plan or try a 14-day free trial:
Go to Arena websiteGet Arena WordPress plugin

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Colin Newcomer

Colin Newcomer has been using WordPress for over a decade and is on a quest to test all 58,075 plugins at WordPress.org.

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Arena, liveblog, Sports

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