#newsrw - Liveblogging liveblogging - the meta death of the pyramid story

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Marcus Warren, editor of the Telegraph website, hosting a panel on liveblogging

A session on liveblogging. Which I’m liveblogging. Blog will eat itself.

Matt Wells, The Guardian

Matt Wells

The infamous Louse and Flea post is being mentioned (discussed here). Matt thinks that liveblogs are one of the best ways of covering stories that don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. The inverse pyramid story may be the single biggest reason that journalists are mistrusted. It encourages sensationalism.

Liveblogs haven’t developed by accident. They started (on The Guardian at least) with minute-by-minute coverage of sports and television events. They are a “uniquely digital” format (Martin Belam). They are the quickest way of publishing updates on a story and curated and verified relevant material from social media – the journalists can give them narrative and context. They’re interactive, encouraging many, many comments.

However, they’re almost the victims of their success. Threads of comments 1000 strong are hard to monitor, so they’ve employed people just to do that. And it can be hard for newcomers to pick up the thread. Regular summaries and links to pyramid stories can ease this.

Has Twitter killed liveblogging as Tim Montgomerie has suggested? It can do, if you have the right people on Twitter – but it doesn’t give you the breathing space or room for context that liveblogging does.

We need to make them easier to comprehend, easier to navigate, and easier to escape. The Guardian’s liveblogs can have up to 10 people working on them.

Alan Marshall, head of digital production, PA

Alan Marshall

Marshall kicks off by pointing out that liveblogging looks a lot like an evolution of traditional newswire update stream. It’s just “live coverage” he suggests, showing the traditional media aversion to the word “blog”.  They offer liveblogs on several topics to their customers. Liveblogging is just another outlet for rapid coverage. They use ScribbleLive as their platform.

Users want to get involved and interact with them – which is very new to them at the PA. Ran a liveblog through the whole week of the royal wedding. They started to see audiences building from the Monday – and it was a real watershed, with reporters filing via Twitter… Prepared background material kept the discussion moving.

They can syndicate their liveblogs, allowing customers to customise them with their own, local or specialist content. It’s a new version of the agency model. The royal wedding was a test case for them. Next two are William & Kate’s first overseas visit (to Canada and the US) and the Olympics next year.

It’s a new way of doing what reporters have always done. It’s allowing their journalists to include the sort of material that was never relevant for the newswires. Encouraging their journalists to be a bit more quirky and irreverent.

Paul Gallagher, Manchester Evening News

Paul gallagher

Been liveblogging for two years on MEN. He categorises that as “early on” To me that’s “late to the party”… UPDATE: see Sarah’s comment below for details of when the MEN started liveblogging.

Their first experiments taught them that it was more of a service to their readers than traditional forms of journalism. Over 300 in the last 18 months or so. English Defence League rally was their first. Huge peaks in traffic when they do liveblogs. They did liveblogging of the snow disruption, which allowed their readers to contribute live information on travel problems. they’ve honed their skills over time, getting better at incorporating video and maps.

It’s also been a very powerful way of teaching journalists about the value of social media. They get to experience its power in real time as they participate in the liveblog. And readers stay on liveblogs for an hour or two, rather than the minute or two for a traditional article.

Local councillors are now tweeting from council meetings, and they can aggregate that with reporters’ tweets to create local democracy liveblogging. Some resistance from councillors, but generally they’ve had enthusiasm. They go to more council meetings than they used to – and get more stories. It’s become accepted practice for all reporters to report everything live, and then develop it for print. (he should be prouder of how deeply they’ve integrated liveblogging rather than how “early” they way. Better not earlier…)

It has made their coverage of local politics better than ever.

Anna Doble, social media producer, Channel 4 news

Anna Doble

Finds it hilarious that people link liveblogging with the death of journalism – it’s clearly not. Their liveblogging allows them to bring live reaction, and insights into how the programme is developing throughout the day. “shows we are really busy from early doors”. The budget liveblog had a panel of real people to join in with them, not just the normal suspects. Gave it an extra dimension.

Mantra: a touch of mischief

It gives correspondents a new point of contact with the audience they’ve never had. They can share video far earlier than they normally do. Let’s use the broadcast skill they have around them. Loads more footage than they can use in the bulletins – so use it in the liveblogs.

Very personality-driven. The anchors are the hub of the newsroom and there will be more of them within the blogs to come. Interviews, chats, etc. They have so much knowledge to share.


Not entirely convinced by the link between talk radio call-ins. There’s only one basic similarity – user contribution. As Anna pointed out, call ins tend to be dominated by a few people, whereas liveblogs are potential way more open – and have the professional contributors.

Accuracy and verification issue raises its head yet again. Shouldn’t verification be inherent to any journalism process. Why do so many people assume that social media means throwing it out of the window? As Matt Wells replied, you being your same basic journalistic skills and value to liveblogging as you do anything else.

Matt Wells suggests that the journalist ability to filter and build a narrative from a stream of information is a key skill. Paul Gallagher suggests that guidelines should boil down to common sense and journalistic skepticism. Marcus Warren mentions that the ability to work sources applies just as much to Twitter. Alan Marshall highlight the ability to spot the key information from the wave of social media information that’s coming at you. Anna Doble suggests learning a foreign language and the ability to spot a story that isn’t being told is vital.

Liveblogging from court? One mistake away from them being banned in courts, says Gallagher. We’d like to cover them live, but you wouldn’t be able to have the audience interaction. Matt Wells doesn’t agree. They’ve liveblogged court – Ian Tomlinson inquest, for example. No unmoderated comments – too much chance of contempt (of court…). They were able to bring in experts to give background and context.

Platforms: Wells suggests that CoverItLive and ScribbleLive aren’t good for large volumes of comments, and for archiving. That’s why they use their own systems.

Adam Tinworth Twitter

Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.