Ten tips: Live blogging from the newsroom

More and more newsrooms are using live blogs to illustrate stories and get different content to their audiences.

Panellists this afternoon at the news:rewired – digital stories conference, in London, offered ten top tips on how organisations can use live blogging effectively and efficiently in their newsrooms.

1. Plan ahead – According to Seb Ramsay, hub news editor at the Manchester Evening News, his paper fills a gap in its coverage with its live blog. The paper uses two bloggers – in morning and afternoon shifts – to tease exclusive stories, amongst other things. Using CoveritLive, says Ben Schneider, the firm’s director and general manager, posts can be set up ahead of the event to add to the coverage.

2. Keep your updates short and to the point – An audience will be more interested in short, succinct posts. According to Neil Macdonald, head of web and data development with Trinity Mirror Merseyside, if you get too ‘rambly’ the audience can lose interest quickly. Because of the character count, short updates are also easily tweeted .

3. Learn when to liveblog and when to tweet – Readers of the MEN’s live blog started getting annoyed when reporters were tweeting every single accident, so reporters now save those updates for the blog unless a huge story breaks, says Ramsay. As well as keeping updates short, bear in mind readers can find it simpler to follow a blog if there are fewer updates.

4. Spread the word using social media – According to Ben Schneider,  11.1 million tweets were published using the CoveritLive service in November. The use of social media in blogs is on the rise, and not only to promote the blog. You can pull in sources of information from social media, such as Tweets and Facebook posts.

5. Verify, verify, verify – As the coverage continues, the audience will want to interact. While a great resource, it’s important to verify any information your audience will share. For example, staff at the Liverpool Echo, says Macdonald, were careful about posting speculation on what would be in the Hillsborough report. When unsure, go straight to your trusted users and figure out what’s true.

6. Review the blog once it’s complete  – As soon as the live blog is over, it can be useful to fine-tune it and offer to the audience as a way of looking back on the day. Looking back over the blog can also provide further content – for example, the Liverpool Echo published the opinions of residents expressed on their live blog the day after the Hillsborough report.

7. Tailor your house style to suit the blog – Ramsey says the MEN’s live blog style is completely different to the style used for their articles. It’s more conversational and relaxed. He described it as ‘the language of broadcast’. This can help to improve engagement with users.

8. Provide a service -Daily live blogs are a useful source for the readers as an ongoing source of news. There isn’t always time to write out every traffic accident in detail for the website or the paper, but a brief bulletin on the live blog is an alternative way to get the information to your readers.

9. Promote your publication – If, as in the case of the Manchester Evening News and the Liverpool Echo, the live blog is attached to a publication, you can use it to promote your publication. Snippets of stories can be posted in the blog for readers to refer to later. Teasing readers with a small post on a daily live blog like the MEN’s can help to drive traffic to your site or incite readers to head to the newsagent and buy a copy of the paper.

10. Get stuck in – The best way to get to grips with live blogging is to just have a go!

Macdonald also treated delegates to a video of liveblogging tips made especially for the conference, in the style of Bob Dylan. Take a look below:

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