When news is breaking, we don’t wait for the six o’clock news or a blog recap to get the scoop. We want to be part of the action as it happens (and maybe even give our own two cents too).
Now that 81% of smartphone users access the Internet on their mobile devices, we don’t even have to be sitting in front of our laptops to access breaking news. We’re carrying it with us everywhere we go. In this on-the-go environment, the live blog has become an important medium for keeping viewers up-to-date and in-the-know.
What is live blogging?
Live blogging helps people who aren’t present at an event to attend remotely. Elections, breaking news events, protests, high-profile court cases, award ceremonies, red carpets, sports events, developing weather reports, anticipated TV premieres, Q&As, conferences, product launches – the list of live blogging opportunities is almost endless. Basically, as long as there’s an audience there’s an opportunity to live blog.
In all of these cases, live blogging channels mutual interest in a topic and brings it all together into a curated feed that publishes commentary from experts and/or audience members, creating a real-time content experience. It’s all about generating a high-quality content experience difficult to replicate by simply scrolling through your Facebook news feed or reading the headlines.
What separates liveblogging from the rest of the pack is its ability to put into context any topic that is generating considerable public attention. Live blogs bring together text, pictures, videos, and expert commentators who can shed light on a topic or event.
Live blogging also gives us a glimpse into formerly exclusive spaces. They can give us a peek backstage at the Grammys, or insight into a courtroom during a high-profile case. Not only do they give us access to previously forbidden spaces, but they also generate discussion. Live blogs encourage us to participate by retweeting, asking questions, or commenting on events as they develop. When done right, live blogging is the holy grail of engaging content.
There are a number of amazing ways to leverage the power of the live blog. Below we showcase some examples of brands and media outlets that are engaging audiences and taking an innovative approach to the live blog format.
How to use live blogging in your content strategy
Add your own commentary to a conference: CNET
During the annual CES Technology show, CNET live blogged a panel on voice recognition tools. The live blog is a great stream of colorful commentary from CNET’s own Max Taves and James Martin. The duo do a great job of re-creating the event, working in a few Siri jokes, publishing photos, and a providing an excellent summary of the panelists’ discussion.
Shed light on dense subject matter: The Street
Over at TheStreet, a news website dedicated to coverage of the markets, Adam Feuerstein live blogged a topic many would otherwise overlook: Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review of a potentially life-changing drug for patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The live blog takes a while to gather steam, but once in the zone, Feuerstein is a wealth of specialized information, answering viewers’ questions and using rich media to provide the audience with nuggets of information and context. The live blog format is a nice touch because it enables Feuersteinim to poll viewers and respond directly to comments from viewers.
Cover a high-profile event: The Grammys
During the week leading up to the 58th Grammy Awards, The Grammys team created a media-rich pinboard to generate interest in one of music’s biggest nights. The effect is an up-to-date and engaging content experience. The pinboard showcases text, photos, and videos that shed light on performing artists or bands, nominees, backstage shenanigans, pre-show rehearsals, red carpet style, and notable moments from past award ceremonies.
Geek out with your favorite TV show: Game of Thrones Live Blog
Spoiler alert – do not click through to this live blog unless you’re caught up on “Game of Thrones” through Season 6. Here, Donna Dickens live blogs as she watches each episode of the popular HBO show, providing a sounding board for fans and building a community through shared experience. According to Adweek, 87% of consumers use a second screen device while watching TV. This live blog captures those second-screen users and creates a secondary venue for engagement throughout the show. You won’t find many photos or videos here, just timestamped text that also allows fans to relive the show the next day and laugh, cry or cringe.
Create a timeline: Reuters
In an original spin on the live blog, Reuters regularly uses the format to create timelines. Their coverage of 2016 election coverage, GM’s faulty ignition switch, legal challenges for LGBT rights, and Alphabet’s most advanced technology, gives readers chronological context and perspective on current events.
Extend the shelf life of content : Buddy TV
Buddy TV uses a live blog to create episode recaps and share videos of each contestant’s performance. Here, the live blog format is used to provide real-time event coverage and a chronicle of the show that viewers can later return to or use to catch the highlights of missed episodes, extending the shelf life of the content.
Capture the human spirit: Run Blog Run
In honor of the 120th Boston Marathon, Run Blog Run published a live blog featuring photos, quotes, and news updates from the event. The live blog featured people who participated in the festivities (like John Kerry announcing the start of the wheelchair division), social media posts honoring the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, and route information. It’s a moving live blog that celebrates the passion of the event and the athleticism of the participants.
Provide exclusive access: Al Jazeera
When it comes to breaking news, Al Jazeera uses live blogs to keep their viewers in-the-know. They took their audience inside the talks between officials in Syria and key stakeholders discussing the country’s ongoing conflict and residents in crisis. Live blogs not only provide exclusive content from behind closed doors, but also allow curators to put the event in context through photos, quotes, and news updates related to the talks. This content and intimate format make the live blog an excellent format for news organizations.
Go beyond the cameras: The Wall Street Journal
Similarly, the Wall Street Journal takes their audience where cameras are off-limits, providing live blog coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court’s review of the Obama administration’s immigration policy. The WSJ turned the live hearings into a live blog with updates from the courtroom. The live blog reveals the depth of WSJ’s news reporting bench and also the human side of what could easily turn into a procedural story.
Now that you’re familiar with a few strategies for using the live blog format, it’s time to start thinking about how live blogging can fit into your content strategy.
Nate Birt is a multimedia journalist, social media enthusiast and copy editor with experience at a variety of print and digital publications, and a Contributing Editor to theVisual.ly Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @natebirt.