Live blog: A new know-how for journalism students

More and more news organizations are now embracing liveblogging and journalism students need to incorporate in their skill set this emerging format of live reporting.

What is Live Blog?

A live blog is a single blog post which is continuously updated by the blogger with a mixture of instant texts, tweets, photo, audio, video, or other social media contents.

Live blogging is usually carried out during breaking news or major live events. It could be a news organization pulling together all the latest updates from its reporters; it could also be a blogger covering a live event by sending updates using mobile devices to his or her own blog.

How and why is Live Blog becoming popular?

Live blog, or real-time reporting, is a new reporting tool and platform which more and more news organizations are beginning to embrace. A BBC director said in a recent conference that it was only in the past year or so that BBC had boosted its live online coverage and seen “big audiences” for it as a result. A director from AFP said one of the advantages of live blogging is that it allows media groups to make full use of all of their correspondents’ time and not waste any incoming material.

Live blog fits especially well with the social media era. According to a article, a hyperlocal site set up by a UK journalism student claims to have received more than 1 million page views in a day, after live blogging the riots across London. The live blog “went viral” with traffic mainly driven through Twitter and Facebook, as well as links left in comment threads on national newspaper websites.

To illustrate the rise of live blogging, here’s a quote from a blog post which lists out some news media in UK and US that have been implementing live blogging:

take a look at the BBCChannel 4 News, The Guardian’s ‘Strikesblog‘ or The TelegraphThe Independent’s coverage is hosted on their own subdomain while Sky have embedded their liveblog in other articles. There’s even a separate Storify liveblog for The Guardian’s Local Government section, and on Radio 5 Live you can find an example of radio reporters liveblogging.

Regional newspapers such as the Chronicle in the north east and the Essex County Standard are liveblogging the local angle; while the Huffington Post liveblog the political face-off at Prime Minister’s Question Time and the PoliticsHome blog liveblogs both. Leeds Student are liveblogging too. And it’s not just news organisations: campaigning organisation UK Uncut have their own liveblog, as do the public sector workers union UNISON and Pensions Justice (on Tumblr).

What does a Live Blog look like?

Some news organizations develop their own live blogging software or platform, many others use third-party services such as CoveritLive or ScribbleLive. As a result, live blog may not look the same on different sites.

Below is a live blog by CNET from Apple’s 2012 Worldwide Developer’s Conference – the actual blog is being embedded here, move your mouse over it and scroll down to explore the CNET blog. You can also view it on the CNET website by following this link (this post continues underneath the embedded blog)

Other than the self-developed live blogging platforms, there are third-party tools and services for organizations or individuals who need an easy-to-use and, often times, free live blogging solution.

The two popular live blogging tools are CoveritLive and ScribbleLive, which basically perform and look the same way. To use this free service, all you need to do is to create an account with them, start a new blog and embed the blog to your own web page.

Below is a live blog of Apple’s WWDC by using CoveritLive; notice how it works and looks different from the previous one by CNET – instead of contents running from top to bottom on the page, in this CoveritLive blog, the contents are contained in a pre-defined box, and the blog box is contained in a regular web page which features other contents such as user comments. (You need to move your mouse away from the embedded blog page so as to scroll down to read the rest of this post)


Tips and best practices for effective live blogging

Effective live blogging takes more than a string of text updates. Based on their own experiments and experiences, executives from several leading European news organizations offered some tips and suggestions:

  • It is very important to add context and analysis in real time, as well as other elements such as video and infographic. To that end, preparation is vital.
  • Choose a writing and chatting style that fits the organization. For BBC, they’ve found that a style that is accessible but pretty straight-forward is the best way to go and it fits their brand. Other organisations go for a more informal or chatty style.
  • Choice of topic is key. The BBC has found that the best liveblogs cover a clearly defined single subject; they decided they would focus on live pages for the big stories.

The severe weather live blog hosted by provides for an example of liveblogging where, in addition to read-time updates, the host provides background information in the form of graphs and charts. More importantly, the host interacts with audiences in the form of mini-polls, asking and answering questions, soliciting and posting twitter tweets, photos and videos uploaded by audiences on the ground, etc.

Below is an archive live blog from last year about a thunderstorm in midwest – this is another feature of live blogging: it can be archived and replayed at a later time. You can also view this blog on the original webpage.

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About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (, a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
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