Thursday, April 21, 2011

Live Blogging Sporting Events

If print media answers the question, "What happened?", then live blogging, if used correctly, answers, "What's happening?" But too often, live blogging sporting events is abused and misused. 

(If you're new to the concept, live blogging means dynamically updating your blog posts as an event unfolds and/or using a real-time conversation widget to share information and potentially reader questions during an event.)

The next few posts to BDL will examine live blogging in the sports blogosphere. In particular, we'll discuss the pros and cons to continually updating your blog while watching a game -- or, as I like to call it, the "Already Watching This" Syndrome. (I explain below.) 

Already Watching This Syndrome, Explained (told you)

Kevin James describes the syndrome pretty nicely in the first 60 seconds:

When you live blog a sporting event, chances are high that your would-be readers are already watching the very same event. (If you're a Knicks blogger, your readers are Knicks fans and -- you guessed it -- they watch Knicks games! You're sharp. You're a sports blogger. So you already knew this. But stay with me...)

Should your fans log onto the blog during the big game, your live blog merely acts as the girlfriend pulling their collective arm and pointing to the TV. "Watch this part! I mean really watch!"

We get it. You're handing us a text rundown of the action we can see video.

Live blogging in this particular vein adds little value to a fan's experience of a game (unless you're in the press box or in the stands, where you have access to info and activities the typical fan wouldn't notice on TV)

As I mentioned here, I'm a big advocate for ensuring you're adding value in some way when you publicize your thoughts and words, especially during games.

So how do you live blog and still add value? For starters, don't live blog that often during games, if at all.

Now this isn't to suggest that live blogging doesn't add value, period. If used during a conference or exclusive gathering, you can offer a wealth of information to your readers and create digital "attendees" that can even interact with actual event participants. MIT's Sloan Sports Analytics Conference comes to mind as the perfect place for sports bloggers to live blog. Think of the benefits to readers:
  • You provide instant analysis, key quotes and a digestible summary of an event that, without your blog, your readers would miss until after the conference ended.
  • You offer a means for readers to pose questions sent through your blog to the event's speakers, given the right type of event.
  • Speakers are held more accountable, as readers with the time and technology on hand can immediately check facts and figures.
Posting live during this kind of event busts open otherwise closed doors. That is unbelievably valuable (not to mention an incredibly cool feat for you to accomplish). Platforms such as CoveritLive are also available for bridging the gap between current events and digital audiences.

But remember: should you choose to live blog, keep the in-game summaries to a minimum. Don't be that annoying girlfriend (or boyfriend). Otherwise, prepare to watch some of your readers get cozy with another blog.

During the next few posts, I'll look at a few positive use cases for live blogging sports, as well as the best practices for live blogging in ways that adds true value to readers.


  1. Jay I respectfully disagree that live-blogging a game is a waste. Your argument would seem to also downplay the attraction of Twitter to sports fans. When something happens in a game they want to know how other feel about it. Whether it's their buddies, other fans they don't personally know, beat writers for their team, or whoever, twitter allows instant knowledge of reactions. On a live blog, someone has created a loyal-enough reader base that their fans must know their thoughts on every (many) aspect of a given game. I agree that this doesn't work for most bloggers as most don't have a substantial enough platform. But for those who do, live blogging can be a great experience for readers and fans alike.

  2. I think Twitter is a hugely valuable aspect of in-game discussion (but it must add value. Saying "What a dunk!" is not valuable...saying "Melo dunks over Howard!" is mildly valuable if your followers aren't watching...saying "3rd pick and roll by NY, 2 dunks by Melo!" is very valuable cuz it provides some analysis and things not readily available via TV without the viewer really tracking that stuff.

    If someone has a massive following like Bill Simmons, I would argue that their live-blogging is really enjoyable. But for my audience (mostly fans sports blogging), they need to focus on dominating a niche, on adding unique value, and I just don't think live-blogging is doing that. There are too many other in-game options (TV, radio, Twitter, Facebook, texting friends, etc.)...I think live blogging as a fan at least as it pertains to summing up games is out dated.

  3. Agreed, live blogging should not take away from doing other things in-game.