12 tips for running a successful liveblog

29 January 2014

Laure Nouraout

12 tips for running a successful liveblog

Next Friday and Saturday, a couple of GEN team members will be in El Pais' newsroom for the first Editors Lab Hackdays of 2014. Ten teams will have two days to present a tool to be used in the newsroom on the following theme: 'Liveblogging and Breaking News'. Interested? Learn more here and follow it live on Friday and Saturday.

When news is breaking or when a big event is taking place, a liveblog can be a terrific way to follow the story as it unfolds and keep your audience updated and engaged. Kim Fox, former journalist at CBC/Radio Canada and now VP of Content at ScribbleLive, offers some advice on how to liveblog.

#1. Planning: It is key to effective coverage. Good planning will give structure to your blog. Even if you can't predict a piece of breaking news, you can prepare for every other story that may happen.

#2. Staffing: Depending on your newsroom, you might have the resources to have a whole team or only a couple people. It is important to have a 'host', a key figure who is leading the conversation. Then, you might want to add somebody who is dedicated to visual content (infographics, pictures, videos, etc.) or somebody working on relative content and context (outside links for example).

#3. Promotion: It is essential to get your message out and let people know that a liveblog is happening or about to happen. You can use social networks, a link on your homepage, an intro on the actual liveblog covering the 5 Ws of the event plus some visuals. 

#4. Transparency: You want to let your audience know what you are doing, so set a tone and  pace.

#5. 'Boots on the ground': There is nothing like having somebody on the scene to describe what is happening. As Kim Fox describes it, you get a '360-degree view' of the event.

#6. Think visually: You can use a lot of different visual tools to structure your content. Some  examples are compelling videos or good and simple infographics. This allows you to break the rhythm. And don't forget to consider how everything will appear on a mobile device!

#7. Verification: The number one rule of journalism: accuracy is mandatory, in liveblogging as in anything else. That is why preparation can be a huge help.

#8. Use social networks: Can be very helpful, but contrary to a hosted liveblog, social networks provide less context for your readers.

#9. Regular summaries: Keep your audience updated on what has been going on, for readers who are just joining the conversation.

#10. Interaction: You want to be able to engage with your audience, ask questions, let them comment, etc. But first, ask yourself the question: what is the purpose? For Kim Fox, it is important to have a precise answer so you can more effectively use this user-generated content.

#11. Wrap-up: At the end, offer a summary of key events to your readers, which will give them the possibility to replay the event. 'Like a DVR', Fox jokes. This also provokes deeper engagement, beyond the end of the live event.

#12. Have a post-mortem: Sit down and go through what happenned, incorporate statistics. This will allow you to have a much better event next time around.