Live blogging is hugely popular. A new survey has discovered that live blogs are getting 300% more views and 233% more visitors than conventional online articles on the same subject.
They also outperform online picture galleries, getting 219% more visitors, according to the research by City University London [Full disclosure: I teach at City].
Live blogs provide commentary and analysis alongside breaking news rather than summarising the event after it is over. It’s a transparent format in which the writers are able to update and amend their commentaries in easily digestible paragraphs.
Live blogging is now being used by many online news outlets to cover big breaking news stories, news events – such as the US presidential election – and sporting fixtures, including football and cricket.
According to the researchers, it is the transparent, almost conversational, nature of the format that readers appear to like. They feel the information they receive is more objective.
There is a convenience factor too: online readers are able to follow the unfolding of a story on a single page and can see how it develops in more or less real time.
The research, conducted by Dr Neil Thurman and Anna Walters from the university’s journalism school, is regarded as the first major study into the live blogging phenomenon.
“We believe live blogs are so popular because they meet readers’ changing news consumption preferences,” says Thurman. “More and more news is being consumed at work, in the office.
“Live blogs provide this ‘news-at-work’ audience with what they’re looking for: regular follow-up information on breaking news in ‘bite-sized nuggets’ which they can read – as several readers told us – while they are supposed to be working.”
The Thurman-Walters study also looked at how live blogs are constructed. They found that because live blogging journalists work so fast – often publishing updates every 20 minutes for six hours straight – there is little time for fact-checking.
Despite that, readers feel that live blogs are less opinionated and “more factual” than traditional articles written with care after an event.
Thurman believes that’s because “the looser culture of collaboration is offset by live blogs’ use of a relatively large number of sources, and transparent citation and correction practices.”
And readers don’t just passively read live blogs – they like to comment. The researchers found that readers were twice as likely to participate with live blogs than with other articles.
And there is a Twitter element too. The survey reports that live bloggers are three times more likely to include readers’ tweets rather than the comments added below the blogs.
At this point, I have to add another declaration of interest because the research was carried out at The Guardian, which has pioneered live blogging, first with sport and then with news events, beginning with the London tube bombings in July 2005.
That doesn’t negate the exercise, of course, nor the findings. Those stand-out figures in the first paragraph show the popularity of live blogs.
There are downsides: the frequent updating means that factual verification cannot be other than cursory, and one of the interviewees – Guardian reporter Paul Lewis – warns that sitting at a computer screen is bound, ultimately, to be of less value than being on the spot.
Anyway, it’s an interesting study. You can access the full survey, Live blogging – digital journalism’s pivotal platform? A case study of the production, consumption, and form of live blogs at guardian.co.uk, here on the City University site or through the Digital Journalism website here.
And, by coincidence, there is a live blog running now on the Media Guardian site about the latest set of charges against News International staff.
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