Why do publishers do liveblogs?

By Paul Marsden

Today is Transfer Deadline day, an unimportant day for many people but a very significant one if you happen to be a football fan.

That is because it is the last day teams can sign and register new players before the end of the season. Obviously the media react to this in their typically understated manner, this Guardian parody imitating the drama injected into Sky Sports’ deadline day coverage is fairly accurate.

However the coverage is far from confined to broadcasters. The age of online news has led to an explosion of publishers going the extra mile for their readers – the BBC has rolling coverage, so does every major newspaper and most regional newspapers do team specific live coverage.

Why is there so much coverage?

This is a very sensible question, why devote so many resources to a very small amount of players switching clubs? The simple answer is because committed fans devour it.

Everyone lives in the hope their team will find a huge wedge of cash behind the sofa to sign the next Brazilian wonderkid, or even (depending on their plight) the unwanted, ageing centre half from the club up the road.

Because fans have increasingly bought into the drama of deadline day, publishers know they have engagement. If they run a day-long liveblog they know that many fans will return to the website several times within the day to check to see if a signing has been made.

This engagement is priceless as it equals clicks, which with advertiser-funded business models leads to more income.

How do you write an engaging liveblog?

It’s not as easy at is seems.

The style you can take with a liveblog is dependent on your audience. Due to their nature they tend to be more conversational and less serious than normal coverage. There is also room for some opinion, so you can intersperse your coverage with your reaction to what is happening.

However it needs to be reliable and accurate reporting, otherwise you risk damaging your reputation as a publisher. This can be difficult to achieve under pressure and if you make a mistake, you need to be transparent and flag it up.

Keeping your updates regular (at least once every five minutes or so) is also crucial, otherwise you run the risk of people leaving the site.

Getting the audience involved is also a key part of the exercise, this makes readers feel more involved.

It also provides content. This is the single biggest challenge facing reporters who are doing liveblogs over several hours, after a while what are you going to write about?

Preparation is key 

So before you embark on a lengthy stint covering the transfer window, a cricket match or even Prime Minister’s Questions make sure you have prepared.

You need to know who is going to be involved (so you can find prior material, clips or interviews) and what is likely to happen. You may end-up being wrong, but at least you’ll have enough knowledge to tell your audience events have taken a surprising turn.

After all if you don’t prepare well, this could easily happen to you.

Main image courtesy of Evertonfc.com

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