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Blogosphere Trends + The Art of Live Blogging

Live-blogging—writing about an event as it happens rather than after the fact—can be a valuable resource for your readers, providing them with up-to-the-minute information about important events and making your blog the go-to destination for information on a developing story. It is also rife with perils: insufficient power supplies, spotty Internet connections, and errors made in haste, to name a few.

Here are ten tips to make live-blogging work for you. I’ve used blog posts about the last month’s most frequently blogged about stories, according to Regator (they are, in order: Egypt, Super Bowl XLV, Academy Awards/Oscars, Libya, national budget, Charlie Sheen, New Zealand earthquake, Mobile World Conference, CPAC/Conservative Political Action Conference, and Radiohead) to illustrate live-blogging techniques and practices that you can start using on your own blog:

1. Do research as you blog to fill in gaps in your own live reporting

Example: World Watch’s Live Blog: Egypt in Crisis, Day 11
Yes, you are on the scene, gathering original information, doing interviews, and taking your own photos, but if you’re covering a broad story (in this example, the revolution in Egypt), you simply can’t be everywhere at once. Don’t be afraid to include well-attributed links to other up-to-date coverage or to include quotes from experts to give readers more information.

2. Choose your weapons carefully

Example: Packers Blog’s Super Bowl XLV live blog
There are a number of useful tools and services designed to make live-blogging simpler. The live-blogging plugin for WordPress, CoverItLive (the service used in this example post and acquired on Thursday by Demand Media), and ScribbleLive are solid options for general live-blogging assistance. Justin.tv, Ustream.tv, and Qik.com are useful for on-the-go video. Audio can be recorded and posted from anywhere with tools such as Chirbit and Audioboo. Determine which of these tools works best for you and become familiar with their interfaces before you go live.

3. Prepare if possible

Example: Paste Magazine’s 2011 Oscars Live Blog
If you’re live-blogging an unexpected event, such as the tragic New Zealand earthquake (see below), you’ll have to start from scratch. An event such as the Academy Awards, on the other hand, leaves ample opportunities for advance preparation. In this example, the categories, nominees, and predicted winners could all be filled in prior to the show, leaving the live-bloggers with extra time to cover the spontaneous moments and announcements of winners. This particular live-blog also makes the author of each comment undeniably clear, which is especially important when opinions are being shared in a post by multiple bloggers.

4. Go beyond the tweet

Example: Need to Know’s Libya revolts: A live blog
There are times when 140 characters will suffice and times when seconds matter more than details. Those are the times to turn to Twitter. There are, however, situations, such as the Libyan revolts, that are too complex to be conveyed with such brevity. Those who argue that live-blogging is dead (likely the same ones who claim blogging as  a a whole is dead) should look no further than this example to understand its value. This post incorporates official statements from Amnesty International, Interpol, and other organizations; video and photographs from the scene; witness interviews; updates from bloggers, activists, and news outlets; relevant tweets from Libyans; video of the White House’s statement; original reporting; and, perhaps most importantly, a lasting, detailed chronological account of events as they happened that can be referenced for years to come. Take advantage of the diversity of content and attention to detail that live-blogging allows and don’t treat it like a series of tweets.

5. Understand the difference between distilling and transcribing

Example: The Two-Way’s Live-Blog: President Obama’s News Conference [National Budget]
In this example, Mark Memmott blogs important direct quotes but does not attempt to transcribe the entirety of the president’s speech. He quotes key phrases and summarizes the rest of Obama’s main points. He is fastidious in his use of brackets to indicate changes to direct quotes and (this is important) never uses quotation marks when the language isn’t exact. As a live-blogger, your job is not to transcribe an event but to distill it for readers and present the most important points. Trying to transcribe word for word will lead to frustration, exhaustion, and typos galore.

6. Pack appropriately

Example: The Wire’s Live Blogging TMZ’s Charlie Sheen Backyard Livestream (headline changed after-the-fact to “WATCH: Here is Charlie Sheen’s EPIC TMZ Livestream Interview”)
Admittedly, finding a good live post about the month’s sixth-most-blogged-about story, Charlie Sheen, was challenging. It’s pretty much impossible, after all, to live-blog Charlie Sheen without being with Charlie Sheen and he’s too busy “winning” to hang out with most of us. TMZ did, however, do a live video interview from his mansion so I’ll use that to discuss the kinds of equipment you should bring in a similar live-blogging situation. Things you might want to pack in your live-blogging kit include: extra batteries, power cords and chargers aplenty, laptop, smart phone, Flip or larger video camera, reasonably sized camera, USB cords or other connectors for cameras and video cameras, and an alternative method of Internet connectivity in the case of inadequate WiFi.

7. Update frequently with clear time stamps

Example: Channel 4’s News blog Live Blog: Dozens dead in New Zealand Earthquake
Live-blogging is a commitment. If you plan to post only two or three updates, you’d be better off posting a single well-thought-out post after the fact. In this example, 45 updates were posted during the two days following the earthquake, each with a clear time stamp for context. Regular updates ensure that your blog will be considered the primary place to go for up-to-the-minute information. This is especially vital for situations in which people are frightened and worried about the wellbeing of loved ones. As a general rule of thumb, aim for updates every five to 15 minutes or so during shorter events such as the Academy Awards or Obama’s budget news conference, and once every half hour or so when covering situations such as the earthquake aftermath or revolts. This lets readers know the blog has not gone dormant.

8. Accept that your live posts won’t be as flawless as your edited posts

Example: Business Insider’s LIVE: Steve Ballmer At Mobile World Congress
Once you’ve made it clear that you are live-blogging from the scene, most readers will forgive minor typos and grammatical errors. Do the same. The faster you are trying to get updates out, the less time you have to edit and guard against errors, so don’t beat yourself up. As long as you’ve got your facts straight, errors such as the minor ones in this example (lowercase “nokia,” lack of apostrophe in possessive “consumers,” etc.) from the normally meticulously edited Business Insider are understandable.

9. Use subheadings along with time stamps

Example: The Fix’s CPAC 2011: The Conservative Political Action Conference
Live-blogging can lead to lengthy posts. Using subheadings such as the ones in this example in addition to time stamps throughout your post can increase reader engagement and allow for easy scanning.

10. Know when to live-blog…and when not to

Example: Dig Boston’s Live Blog Review: Radiohead’s ‘The King of Limbs’ From Start to Finish
Live-blogging works best for developing stories or live events. While this live-blog of Radiohead’s new album is good, the live-blogging format doesn’t add a great deal because of the static nature of the story. With all due respect to the blogger, whose work is solid, the review would have been just as good or better if the blogger had taken notes as he listened then written a comprehensive post after the fact. Use live-blogging in moderation.

Do you live-blog? What tips can you add?

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator, as well as an award-winning print journalist. Reach her on Twitter @kimber_regator and get free widgets for your blog from Regator.

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Comments

  1. James says:

    Thanks for the advice here. There are times throughout the year where I’ll be doing live blogging.

    Using tweets are good examples of microblogging, but it’s always good to go one step further.

    There’s seminars up throughout the world that could seriously benefit from this.

  2. I’ve never done any live blogging but I know a few people who have done it at a games expo. Apparently their biggest problem was loosing content as their battery died while they were walking around and having a look. If you are going to an event make sure you take a spare battery with you!

  3. Take your marketing to new levels and stay consistence if you want to make it to the top..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  4. I think this is a very innovative way to blog. The idea of live blogging, if used appropriately could really make a major impact and set a blog aside as authority. I’m not really sure how I could apply this to my niche exactly, but I can see so many possibilities for clients and bloggers of various niche. I’ve thought about doing a blogothon before, but I couldn’t quite work out the kinks of how to do it a way that brings value and not just noise.

  5. It has to be learning from an event and telling the main things that happened. Also do not forget to make it story like with points that people would want to tell their friends about it without having you to ask them to share it.

    Lawrence Bergfeld

  6. Tom Big Al Schrieter asks his prospects who do you know who is a good story teller. If you can take the main idea out of something and make it sound like fun then prospects will tell their friends about it without you having to ask them to share it.

    Lawrence Bergfeld

  7. airbrush says:

    We have an upcoming airbrushing workshop in Orlando and live blogging might a good tool to reach our audience, especially those who can’t attend the one-week classes.

    Thanks for the tips!

    Gerry

  8. Great list of trends. Bloggers are becoming smarter these days by writing about live events or recent happenings.

  9. Justin says:

    If someone is doing a live update then I don’t expect their post to be perfect. I just want the information and my mind will figure out the rest.

  10. Allen Walker says:

    Great tips for people who want to try our live blogging on their site. :)

    I’ll stick to edited posts for the moment though… ;)

  11. chakie says:

    Honestly I appreciate all of these information. Certainly I would like to use live bloggin in the future(but first i need to talk with my colleagues if they agree tu use this techniques). Thank you very much for all of these information and also thnx to this blog. It is helping us a lot to improve the quality of our blog.

  12. Nick says:

    Live blogging is an interesting development in the blogosphere. Personally I had never looked towards it much in my own use, but it definitely has it merits in live reporting. Neat article!

  13. Aurore says:

    I was attending at a film festival last week and thought I could almost blog at the same time.
    Some articles had been prepaired but when I tried to update the first one, I realized that it wouldn’t be as easy as I had planned.
    Far from home, my only editing tool was my smartphone!
    I should have connected the twitter feed to the blog for this short period or used another way to share my live reporting.
    Frustrating.

  14. Nigella says:

    “Don’t be afraid to include well-attributed links to other up-to-date coverage”

    I think this is important. It adds credibility and authenticity, plus it opens your readers to a wider list of good resources.

  15. Arjun Govind says:

    A very nice guide on live blogging but i think live bloggers should be careful about what they are righting. The things may turn in a way that never expected. I think it’s hard to edit our blog posts as the live event is updating or keep on changing.

  16. Lea Sadler says:

    A lot of great points here. #3 definitely hits home for me, as it rings true for how I would handle writing for the newspaper when I was a reporter — and how I would get started on a newsletter article when I was writing for one of the largest electric cooperatives in the U.S. I’d have a good idea on what I’d see, learn, ask…and I’d pre-write a lot of my articles. It’s so much easier and faster to edit than to start from scratch — and the finished product can sound a lot smoother (because you’ve taken the time to edit in advance.)

    On the down side, when working this way, you WILL end up deleting a lot of what you’ve pre-written because it turns out not to match how things really “come down” — but I figure that’s a small price to pay for the completed piece coming out better.

    Two things to be cautious of when using this method:

    1. don’t allow yourself to be blinded to actual events because you’re too stuck on your “script”

    and

    2. don’t forget to get rid of the text that didn’t actually play out! This includes unneeded background info.

  17. Geez, I have enough keeping up with my blogs without a time crunch!

    I am planning on doing some live Tweets during a meeting I’m having with an online buddy!

    Of course, my typing is not top notch..in fact slow as molasses so the news would probably change before I even got done tweeting :-)

    Have a great day!

  18. Excellent! Thanks for the overview of all the different kinds of live blogging. Who knew?

    Last week, I was hoping I could find some of the prounion supporters in Wisconsin and follow along. Someone suggested search.twitter.com

    I guess the future will require need new versions of the telephone yellow pages to Find things.

  19. Great article Kimberly, thanks for sharing

  20. justina walford says:

    I just learned this first hand. The earthquake in Japan this morning made me scramble for news sources. The best source for what was really going on in Tokyo (where I have family and was waiting for updates) was a live blog on Time Out. http://www.timeout.jp/en/tokyo/feature/2531/Japan-earthquake-as-it-happened

    Now that I know family is safe, I’m watching CNN and the like, but this blog really spoke more to me and told me what I really wanted to know. Not scary pictures. Not facts and figures. The experience.

  21. Aviva says:

    Great article!
    Thanks for sharing!

    It would be great to go and document amazing events and share them on the blog as they happen. :)

  22. jppinto says:

    The earthquake in Japan is a good example of a live blogging that could/can be explored. I’m one of the millions of people around the world that is searching for news about this. It would be a great oportunity for people that can write live material about this subject to explore and gather visitors to their site.

  23. Marcie says:

    I am a live blogger and will be releasing my e-book, The ABCs of Live Blogging, by the end of the week. I live blog conferences, trade shows and community events. Three points I can offer are: 1. Be engaging because your audience will feel your energy 2. Hone your typing skills 3. Listening is fundamental. You may not be able to see everything, but you can provide great detail just from listening.

  24. Marcie says:

    I am pleased to report that my eBook, The ABCs of Live Blogging, is now available for download http://www.thewritedesignco.com/abcs-of-live-blogging/. Buy your copy today!