Driving Engagement with Sports Liveblogs

Sports are meant to be consumed in real time. Watching a sports game is also an innately social activity, which is why we flock to stadiums by the thousands to see the game unfold. Although we can’t all watch the game in person, we can still watch in a social manner from the comfort of home.

The Online News Association, a nonprofit membership organization for digital journalists, published a very interesting post last week by data journalist and web producer Lucas Timmons. Lucas works at The Edmonton Journal in Alberta, Canada and wrote a piece titled “A Manifesto for a digital sports section”. His piece for ONA touches on several important points with regards to digital sports reporting, including engagement, interactivity, automation, and refocus—check it out for tips for providing real-time content to your audience.

TV and the second screen

TV is still king when it comes to how we spend our time. According to the US Department of Labor, in 2010 it was the leisure occupying most time (2.7 hours per day) for Americans over the age of 15. Canadians aren’t too far behind with average of 2 hours and 52 minutes a day according to StatsCan. According to World Internet Stats, North America has an internet penetration rate of 78.6%, so a majority of Americans and Canadians would be able to have a multi-screen experience while watching TV.

Creating an engaging space where users can follow the game and interact with fellow fans has never been easier. A great way to build such a space is to use liveblogs. Creating a whitelabel page on your website with a liveblog that runs during the game can keep viewers engaged for the duration of the event, and if you choose to do pre-game discussions and post-game analysis, engagement can last even longer. During the 2012 NHL season, The Province created a 24/7 Legendary Canucks Live Chat and it’s still incredibly popular even though the Canucks are out of the play-offs!

On Wednesday, AD Age Social Engagement/Social TV conference, executives from ESPN, MLB, and WWE discussd the future of social TV and viewer engagement. They confirmed that sports is one of the best genres to pursue a second screen experience. Mr. Bowman, CEO of MLB Advanced Media said that “as a player hits that third home run, fans are all over the place chatting about it. I think it’s complimentary. As soon as something is happening, fans want to get to as many people as can.” If organizations can successfully create compelling content across various platforms, then advertisers will come.  “It’s important to note that advertisers really value integrated scale, ideas and experiences that don’t have scale are unlikely to connect” said Josh Kosner, executive VP of Digital and Print at ESPN.

Engaging sports journalism

Smaller news organizations with fewer resources can still make use of liveblogging technology. Even dedicating a single reporter to moderate and lead a liveblogging discussion can be enough. A great example is The Score’s liveblogging. The Canadian sports network has a liveblog set up for most games, but only one reporter liveblogs each event. To fill the gaps, The Score recruited fans to liveblog games reporters can’t be at.

How do we bring the readers?

Leverage your current resources:

– Promote the upcoming event via social media
– Ask your reporters to promote events they’re covering on their social media platforms. The sports reporters at STLtoday.com do an excellent job at this. Jeremy Rutherford tweets to his +15,000 followers before each of his weekly chats, reminding them to join.

– Invite guests to your chats, think about bringing on athletes, coaches, and other experts–their knowledge fosters a rich and interesting discussion. Detroit Free Press recently hosted a very interesting discussion with Michigan State hockey coach Tom Anastos.
– If you’re a smaller paper and don’t have the pull to attract a famous athlete, get a respected authority on the subject from your town to participate in the chat.
– Choose a regular time to host a discussion or liveblog each time a certain team plays, this way readers could get familiar with your schedule. The Score liveblogs games as they happen, whereas Detroit Free Press and STLToday.com have scheduled weekly chats.

Run a contest:

Plan a small giveaway on your liveblog during a game, give your readers an incentive to visit your blog and convince them to stay with quality coverage of the game!

Turning a liveblog into a story

Another great thing about our liveblogs is that they can easily be turned into articles. When the game is finished, what you’re left with is a liveblog full of coverage and commentary. If you decided to pull in relevant tweets, e.g. a hashtag about the game – #CFC for Chelsea Football Club or sports authorities, then you’re likely to have pictures, quotes, and commentary inside you’re liveblog. Using our LiveArticle feature, you can easily turn all of that content into a beautiful looking article, with videos, photos, reader comments, tweets, Facebook comments, and any other content from your liveblog.


So there you have it, good real-time sports content attracts an audience and advertisers, and liveblogging is an excellent way to develop that content.

If you’re interested in starting a sports marketing liveblog, signup today.