All this week on The DOZ Blog we are looking at some advanced blogging techniques. Today we enter the world of live blogging and explain what it’s about, why you should try it, and how to do it right.
Blogging remains one of the most effective means of promoting a business, building a brand, winning an audience, and expressing creativity. Whether blogging for business or just for yourself, it’s an activity that most anyone can undertake and enjoy, with powerful payoffs waiting just a click of the ‘publish post’ button away.
At DOZ we are big fans of blogging and have covered blogs, blogging, and best practices for everything from editorial content through to blog design. We’ve looked at trends in blogging, helped people choose the best platform for their blog, and we’ve even got a great eBook for novice bloggers on how to get started.
But what if you want to do more than just get started? What if you are confident blogging and are ready to step up your game to the next level? How can you take advantage of your blog to deliver value for your readers and make your site a must-read for anyone interested in your niche?
One way to take your blogging to the next level is to try live blogging, and in this post we’re going to introduce you not only to the idea of live blogging but also why it might be perfect for your blog, and the best practices you should follow to make sure that your readers can follow along.
What is Live Blogging?
First things first, though: let’s define live blogging.
Live blogging differs from ‘regular’ blogging in that it is event centered and posts are updated in real-time. Instead of sharing thoughts, opinions, and knowledge in long, considered posts published when they are ready to go public, a live blog is a regularly updated tracking of and commentary on something happening live.
For example, you might live blog a sporting event or a political rally. You might live blog a television series for second-screeners, or you might live blog a conference or seminar.
The key here is that something is happening, and you are commenting on that something, in real time.
Why Should You Live Blog?
There are three reasons why you should consider live blogging an event on your blog.
First, it gives people a reason to visit your site and stay there once they arrive. Your blog posts are already enough to bring people to your site each day but keeping them there once they have read the headline or even the whole post can be hard. A live blog, on the other hand, keeps your readers refreshing to get your latest comment, your latest update, and the latest thoughts that they cannot find anywhere else.
Second, it establishes you as an authority on a subject. Unlike a post that might take weeks to plan, research, write and publish, a live blog forces you to react on the fly. If you know your stuff and if you can communicate that to people following your live blog, then you’ll be establishing yourself as an authority in real-time. Who would you rather take advice from: the person who knows the right answer immediately, or the person who can get back to you with the right answer in a week? If you prefer the former, you’ll understand the appeal of the live blog.
Third, it breaks up the posting rhythm for you, the blogger, and brings a little bit of fun to blogging. Instead of moving through the important but time consuming process of crafting the perfect post you’ll be able to react as you would in real-life. When something happens, you post an update. When you can connect two disparate elements in an interesting way, you do. It’s a running commentary on something you know something about, and if you keep it engaging it will be like you are right there in the room, at the stadium, or on the couch next to your readers – and this makes for plenty of fun at the blogger’s end of the conversation.
Want to give live blogging a go? Here are some things to keep in mind when you launch into the world of the live blogger.
Best Practices for Live Blogging
Just as there is no single way to blog successfully, there’s no single way to live blog successfully, either. There are, however, some best practices that will help keep your live blog on track, help your readers understand what they’re seeing, and align your live blog with those that readers have encountered elsewhere.
Why is this important? Well even if you are new to love blogging your readers probably are not. By meeting the expectations that they have developed by following live blogs on other sites, it will be easier for them to understand what you are doing and it will give them a reason to stay around.
Neil Thurman, a European researcher, has studied live blogging and developed a master list of best practices for live blogging.
What’s on that list? Read on.
Choose the Right Event
Not every event is ripe for live blogging. Thurman gives the example of a Radiohead album release – sure, it’s newsworthy, but it is not the sort of thing that anyone wants or needs to follow minute by minute. You should only live blog events where regular updates make sense. A 2016 presidential debate? Perfect. The entire 2016 presidential race? Not so much.
Choose the Right Platform
While we can assume that you’ll host your live blog on your blog this does not mean that you need to be bound by the limitations of your standard blogging interface. While updating a post on WordPress or Blogger is not difficult specialized live blogging plugins exist that can make the process of adding comments and content easier. Remember you are live blogging for an audience so keep UX in mind.
You might be an expert on what you are live blogging but this doesn’t mean you don’t have to prepare. Like a commentator on a sporting event, you’ll want to have facts and figures at hand, be ready to link your comments to posts on your site or elsewhere, and have some idea of what is going to happen during the event you are live blogging. You might be surprised, but only for a few seconds – your preparation will make sure you can respond no matter what happens.
Quote and Link
Unlike a regular blog post where almost everything you post might be your own original content, a live blog usually calls for far greater direct quotation from the official event source or another commentator. Hence, there will be an increase in the number of links you’ll post and you should be careful to attribute all of the material to its original source by using quotation marks or hyperlinks. Your readers should be able to easily differentiate between your words and the words of others.
Make Your Live Blog Useable
A live blog works best when the most recent information is at the top of the post and easy for the reader to access. However, this layout also means that anyone arriving late to your live blog party will need to scroll to the bottom of your live blog just to put the latest updates in context. To save them reading through potentially dozens or scores of updates, make sure your headline is clear, and offer a bullet point summary of what has happened so far at the top of the post. This way, latecomers will be able to follow the updates without having to spend a long time catching up (and falling further behind while they do).
Source and Verify
When an event is happening in real time and facts are fluid it is important to make sure that you are drawing on quality and trusted sources, and passing on factual information. For this reason, it is recommended to note clearly if something is confirmed or not confirmed, to clearly state the source of any image, video, or text you have used, and not to invest too much faith in anything that isn’t verified by multiple sources. Remember, the live blog might be a great way to build an audience but spreading unverified information will only harm your credibility in the long run.
You should encourage communication with your readers and be clear about where this communication can be most effective. Perhaps you’ll want the comments and contributions on the blog post itself, or perhaps you’ll prefer that comments and contributions from your readers come in via a social media feed under a specific hashtag. Whatever you choose, make sure it is easy for your readers to get involved – engagement in the moment can help you win long-term readers well after the event concludes.
From time to time you’ll make an error. You might live blog something incorrectly, you might attribute a statement to the wrong person, or you might misinterpret something you saw. When this happens – and it will – make sure that you correct quickly, fully, and transparently. Strikethrough text works well here as it allows the reader to see the original claim and the correction. Does it make you look bad? Not as bad as if you didn’t make the correction at al, and a lot less bad than simply deleting the original comment or claim and pretending it never happened. Stay authentic, try and get everything right first time, but if you don’t then make a clear and transparent correction.
If you’ve never tried live blogging before it might just be the thing to take your blog from where it is to where it could be. Applying the best practices listed here will help you attract and keep readers, and will help you establish the authority and notoriety in your niche. Getting started is easy and your readers will thank you. So what are you waiting for? Get started with live blogging today!
Have you tried live blogging? Let us know how you found it in comments below or on Twitter!