I’m about 99% sure that when Saul Bellow said: “[There is] an immense, painful longing for a broader, more flexible, fuller, more coherent, more comprehensive account of what we human beings are, who we are and what this life is for,” in his 1976 Nobel Prize speech that he wasn’t talking about the use of liveblogging.
But the first bit summarises how liveblogs became so important for news reporting; giving a running and comprehensive view on a story as it happens is quickly becoming the only way of breaking news and, importantly, it’s also what the audience is coming to expect.
Research from Neil Thurman at City University has shown that “liveblogs at Guardian.co.uk are getting 300 per cent more views and 233 per cent more visitors than conventional online news articles on the same subject. They also outperform online picture galleries, getting 219 per cent more visitors.”
The research says that people appreciate liveblogs for two main reasons; firstly, it shows a further move away from print and into online journalism and, secondly, people following news at work want something constantly updating that won’t be (or at least won’t seem like) a distraction.
While the Guardian were really the first to use liveblogging to cover a breaking event (the bombings of 7/7), it has now become the norm for most papers and sites. Whether the Guardian are almost too fond of them is another matter – a number of times I’ve seen tweets saying “x has happened, where’s the Guardian liveblog?”
The reason I am personally so keen on liveblogging is that it is allowing student media to follow the national news agenda and cover live events along with the nationals. Not that we’ll be taking much traffic from them, but it gives excellent experience in something that you’ll almost certainly expected to do in any job in the future.
On Wednesday’s student protest I was pleasantly surprised by how many student sites said they were covering the events as they happened.
So liveblogging is now the done thing. But the pressures of online journalism will mean that before long readers are going to start twiddling their fingers and looking for the next big thing…
One thing that has occurred to me recently is how liveblogging could be used by student media to cover local breaking events. This may well be the gap in the local media market waiting to be filled. I haven’t seen my local papers using it – if anyone else has I’d be interested to know.
There is also a risk that updating text and picture feeds will become dull. This is the ideal opportunity for hacks to embrace all forms of media and use them to break news. Technology is a wonderful thing and, with it, liveblogs can contain sound bites, tweets, video, pictures almost instantly. They can also utilise new and emerging tools, like Indy journalist Kevin Rawlinson showed on Wednesday.
So while liveblogs have a future that can continue to develop, we must also remember that it comes with the risk of complacency. In Greenslade’s piece on liveblogging, he quoted Paul Lewis from the Guardian who recently warned that sitting at a computer screen is bound, ultimately, to be of less value than being on the spot.
From what I’ve seen so far, the best liveblogs come from a mix of on-the-ground updates from reporters and aggregating news and media from Twitter and other sources. Someone on Twitter recently mentioned that ITV News is doing this well, using the ‘digital first’ approach better than many others.
So while liveblogs evolve and continue to grow in their popularity, the question of what comes next is always lurking around the corner…
What do you think makes liveblogs so popular? Are they helping student media? What comes next? Let us know your thoughts! Comment below or tweet us @WannabeHacks