Has Social Media Killed Live Blogging?

Has Social Media Killed Live Blogging? 71

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live blogging

Hasn’t Twitter and Storify – pretty much any social media – killed live blogging?

Well, no.

Live blogging is not dead, not exactly. The reports of its death are greatly exaggerated. Granted, live blogging has certainly changed in recent years, becoming a mix of blogging and social feeds on the blogs and websites of those who use this technique, but it is still very much alive.

Why Live Blogging Still Matters

Live blogging is when you create single post or page that you update continuously throughout an event. It’s a powerful tool, but surprisingly, most bloggers don’t use live blogging much. It seems relegated to newspapers and news organizations to cover breaking news. Live blogging used to be the go-to method for live coverage, though its popularity is in decline while interest in live tweeting is increasing.

live blogging

You can see that interest in live blogging has declined since 2011. Information from Google Trends.

Despite the decline in interest, it’s a shame bloggers don’t use live blogging anymore. Even with social media, there are reasons why live blogging still has a place in any blogger’s repertoire.

Live blogging is easy to promote.

A live blog has all the immediacy, but just one link to share.

You can promote that post or page on social media, and let people know you are live blogging. With a tool like CoSchedule (that connects directly to your blog), you can easily send out regular social messages alerting your audience to your live blogging.

You can publish the landing page or post with information on when the event will unfold ahead of time, noting that you’ll be live blogging there at that time. This makes it easy to promote before the event begins, giving you a single link and plenty of blog real estate to prepare your audience for what you’ll be live blogging.

Live blogging can save your Twitter followers.

A live blog can spare your followers a deluge of tweets.

One of the biggest problems that happens when you live tweet events is that you lose followers. Every year I get carried away and live tweet the Super Bowl and by the end of the night I have lost at least 15 followers. At least.

What if I were to live blog the event instead? I could share a few times on social media that I was doing so, and keep the commentary on my own blog so interested parties could join in.

There are some events that your followers might not care to hear about, and even if you warn them you’ll be live tweeting something, some will still unfollow and take you out of their feed. Tweeting too much is a real problem.

Live blogging is better for coherent information.

Live blogging isn’t limited to 140 characters, hashtags, searches, or any of the other limitations that Twitter sets.

Just as blogging is similar to journalism, live blogging is more like a reporter’s notebook. Twitter is more like a succession of information blips, forcing you to end your tweets with “1/5” or something similar to carry on a longer chunk of information. Readers end up with “soundbite” information, snippets of content that aren’t placed in context and can be misunderstood.

If you need to capture an event as it unfolds with more than 140 characters and have control over the order your content appears, live blogging is where it’s at. Social media feeds have limitations on how much you can say, the order they will publish it, and how your fans can find it.

If you have important information or something you want delivered consistently in an organized manner during an event, live blogging will do that.

Live blogging is the best draft training there is.

If you are a blogger with perfectionist tendencies who dawdles and dwells on drafts for days on end, struggling to hit publish and take a post live, then live blogging is going to cure you of it quickly.

Really quickly.

It’s blogging, remember, and not tweeting. It’s blogging, but you’re doing it live. Your audience is seeing it as it happens. You are going to develop a keen sense of hearing, distilling it down to the basic facts, writing, instant proofing, and publish. And then repeat.

Live blogging is exciting.

Live blogging brings traffic to your site.

When you live tweet, you drive traffic to…Twitter.

Live-blogging is how you drive traffic back to your own site where you may have ads or affiliate links you are using to generate revenue. With proper promotion, you can use your live coverage of an event to increase your email list or any other call to action that your blog relies on.

When Live Blogging Fails

Sometimes, though, live blogging doesn’t cut it. It’s too insulated in some situations. There are times when you want to be on social networks for an event, participating with others, instead of on your own property.

Social is king for nation/world-wide events.

Let’s use that Super Bowl example again.

If I’m live blogging it instead of live tweeting it, I’m doing my uninterested Twitter followers a favor, maybe, but I’m missing out on a lot of camaraderie (and possible new followers). For example, the 2011 playoff game between the Bears and the Packers was dismal until a surprise near-turnaround in the final quarter. After the Bears starting quarterback and his replacement were out of the game (accompanied by much mockery), little-known third-stringer Caleb Hanie was brought in.

The game suddenly got interesting. Twitter exploded. Tweets were pouring in by the thousands, and Hanie’s Twitter account racked up over 7,000 followers in about 20 minutes.

This was when Twitter still had a live stream in Google search, and watching the Caleb Hanie tweets roll in was incredible fun. People were making jokes, predictions, frantic pleas – this looked like a classic underdog story. And even though the Bears didn’t pull it off, it was a great time to be on Twitter and watching the game.

I would not have had that community experience live blogging. I picked up a few new NFL-loving followers, and followed a few myself, just from that experience.

When an event is stretched across a wide swath of geography and people, social media is where you tap into it, particularly if it isn’t your event and you mainly want to ride the wave along with the rest.

Social is easier to set up and use.

Social media apps are on your phone and on the go. You’re already using them, almost as second nature. They’re easier. They are right with you when something happens.

Twitter is a simple app on your phone, requiring no special plugins, immediately accessible. Traditional live blogging has been the forte of the laptop, not the simple phone. Live tweeting a breaking news event out in the field makes excellent sense. You have your phone, which is your camera and publishing tool.

Live blogging is not as portable (yet). So when it comes down to which is easiest to use during an event, social media is almost always right there and ready to go.

When you have a small readership, social gets attention.

Be honest. You might not have a big readership on your blog. You could live blog an event and all 40 of your readers would see it, or you could live-tweet an event and have all 600+ of your followers see it.

If your social feeds are more active and read than direct readership of your blog, take your coverage to social media if you want it to get seen.

When Should You Live Blog?

So the question is, then, when should you live blog and when should you take to social media to give live coverage to an event?

When social coverage might irritate your general audience.

I really want to respect my social followers. I make careful use of lists and circles and groups so that I don’t flood feeds with things people might not want to see. With Twitter, however, you don’t have as many controls. Even though I have two Twitter accounts (one personal, one professional), I still want to be respectful of my audience. You probably want to do the same, too. If the event is:

  • controversial
  • long in duration
  • excessively technical
  • local

…then you should live blog it instead of put it on Twitter.

Twitter offers users limited filters, and since you can’t just say “change the channel if you don’t like it”, you should avoid forcing your followers to see it. Promote your live blog instead, share a few snippets of what you’ve live blogged, but don’t flood the feed.

When it’s your event and you want it on your property.

Are you live blogging your signature event? You should have that on your blog! Again, sharecropping your content and putting it at the mercy (and benefit) of other networks is foolish.

While you definitely want to promote it on social media, find someone on your team to live blog the event for you on your own blog. Again, bring the traffic back to your blog whenever you can.

When you are more interested in documenting the event rather than live conversations.

This is a classic “reporter’s journal” approach. For those of you using a more journalistic approach to your blogging, this is going to make immediate sense to you. The techniques a reporter uses to take notes for an article very much mirror what you do when you live blog.

You are creating the blog post with your notes in the moment instead of using notes to pull together something completely different after the fact.

You may have the desire to give article-length coverage of an event, but to be the first to get the news out there, you’re going to write it on the fly.

When you think the need to document an event is the most important think, regardless of audience or participation, live blogging is optimal. You don’t want it broken up across a confusing social feed with random responses from readers. You want the information organized and easy to find.

When the event is local or regional.

An event in your area is super interesting to people in your area. Your followers on Twitter and other social networks, however, aren’t limited to your local area, and chances are they don’t care as much about it as you do.

Local/regional industry-centric events might be a bit different; your audience should be interested in your industry and so any worthwhile event (particularly if there are speakers with a broad following) would be of value to your followers.

When you’re having a bit of blogging fun.

Periodically, on my own little blog, I’ll live blog my day at the office. It’s kind of a joke, of course, and I note important things like air conditioners turning on and off and if a co-worker opens up a bag of chips.

I’ve even live blogged the (horrifically bad) SyFy movie Piranhaconda in all its hideousness. Live tweeting TV shows is pretty common now, but it should be a show a lot of people are watching. I wanted to do a little Mystery Science Theater 3000 mockery on Piranhaconda and that’s not the kind of movie you flood your Twitter feed with. (Exception: Sharknado.)

Sometimes, you’re better off live blogging than flooding your Twitter feed with a play-by-play of a movie featuring a snake with the head of a fish, or your day at the office. This is especially so if your Twitter account is one you use professionally.

Live blogging is simply the best way to make sure that your content lives forever on your site rather than being buried in Twitter or another social network.

Live blogging and live tweeting don’t have to be mortal enemies, a game of one vs. the other. Your team can do both at the same time, or a mix of the two in the promotion of the event. They are merely two different tools that you should have ready to use.

If you’re ready to give live blogging a try, here are two easy tools to get you started right now:

  • 24LiveBlog uses a sleek interface that allows you to create a liveblog event and then use mobile devices and break free from the laptop if you need to. Your liveblog content is embedded into your blog and updated as you update your 24LiveBlog event. It also allows you to embed tweets within your live blog.
  • Liveblog is a WordPress plugin I’ve used in the past. It lets you set a post as a liveblogging post. You can write any kind of header information that you’d like, just as you would any post. Once the post is published, you actually update the live blog content on the published blog post itself. Once the event is over, you turn it off and it is set.

Have you used live blogging on your own blog? Why or why not?

About the Author

Julie R. Neidlinger is a writer, artist, and pilot from North Dakota. She has been blogging since 2002 at her Lone Prairie blog, and works as a freelance writer and visual artist.

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