Live Blogging vs Live Tweeting

Oh dear… I appear to have missed last week’s post.  Curse property law assignments!  However, now that I’m free of leasehold covenants, rent guarantees and indefeasibility for a couple of weeks – on with the blogging!

Today, I thought I’d take a brief look at live blogging compared with live tweeting, and why one might be preferable to the other.

Live blogging

According to Daniel Hurst, from the Brisbane Time, live blogging involves “ditching the normal news structure”.  Journalists instead provide regular, short updates on a continuous news story.  He says they can be used to cover a wide variety of stories, including:

– unfolding political stories, debates and elections

– severe weather events

– sporting matches

– riots and protests.

Essentially, Hurst said live blogs can be used for any topic in which an audience will be interested in ongoing updates.  He also said running live blogs for rapidly unfolding events makes it easier for readers to digest “bite-sized” pieces of information and that it’s easier for journalists to write short, sharp updates.  The Guardian’s Matt Wells makes some similar comments here.

It was also pointed out to us that live blogs can sometimes take a more conversational tone (though I’d assume the context of the news item in particular would determine if this was appropriate).  For example, check out the ABC’s live blog coverage of the Olympics Closing Ceremony – possibly the best example of a “conversational tone” I’ve seen.  Obviously a more “light-hearted” story like the Closing Ceremony could allow you to be personal and less serious, as compared to say, live-blogging a natural disaster.

The other main benefit of live blogging that Hurst discussed was that it developed a two-way conversation with the reader – journalists can include social media (and other interactive media) to show reactions to news, as well as excerpts of analysis and comments from (and links to) other articles (even their competitors!).

However, live blogs don’t necessarily work for every story.  Channel 4’s technology correspondent Benjamin Cohen (quoted in Matt Wells’ piece above) says live blogs need a “lot of content to work” and also only really work if journalists have a big audience to read and share it.  He says they can also be confusing for new readers (because of the amount of content) and thus need continual “signposting” – good curating and management are to prevent a live blog becoming a “mishmash of tweets and comments with context.”  Finally, I find it interesting that Cohen also says, for some breaking stories, it’s actually more interesting to look at the Twitter stream for a breaking story – which leads nicely into my next point.

Live Tweeting?

Many people will be familiar with the idea of live tweeting – follow any journalist or news organisation on Twitter and, when they attend a press conference or breaking news event, you can be sure there’ll be a constant stream of updates letting the reader know exactly what’s going on (as best they can in 140 words).  The Poynter Institute’s Herbert Lowe describes live tweeting as a “standard tool” for breaking news.

However, Daniel Hurst was sceptical about live tweeting press conferences, and another Poynter Institute author, Matt Thompson, has given five (in my opinion) convincing reasons why a live blog might be better.

Firstly, Thompson does admit Twitter has some “key advantages”, namely that the software is easier to use (no live blogging client to try and embed in your site) and that it also allows you to engage with everyone who follows you (not just those visiting your site on a regular basis).

But he also points out that Twitter’s 140-character limit makes it difficult to capture the “flux of a speaker’s argument, or the back-and-forth in a panel discussion.”  It is good for tweeting “applause lines” though.

Of Thompson’s five points, I think the first two that running a live blog forces journalists to pay attention and forces them to write – warrant some discussion.  I’m not 100 per cent sure doing a live blog will force journalists to pay more attention.  I suppose you could argue the increased amount of information needed (or provided?) by a live blog means journalists would pay attention so they can write more (with the flipside being live tweeting journalists only looking/ listening for main points).  However, I think a live tweeting journo would still need to pay attention to all the information, so that he actually knows which pieces are the most important.

Thompson’s second point is something I could agree with entirely.  I’ve already mentioned, in my Speed vs. Accuracy post, that I’m a bit of a perfectionist.  I like the suggestion that the continual pressure of needing to provide longer updates every few minutes stops journalists from fretting over every word and sentence.  Hopefully, doing some live blogging might help break me from this habit.  Conversely, I think trying to live tweet something might make me more pedantic, as I try and condense all my ideas down into 140 concise characters.

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