Alright, let's start off with a broad question, for all three of you:
When you're covering an awards show, what is your audience looking for? A real-time play-by-play? Cheeky colour commentary? Tell me more about how you approach your coverage.
I don't necessarily think a play by play is in order; either they're watching the show live, or they'll get that kind of real-time information (winners, etc.) from the breaking-news feeds like CNN, Breaking News, etc. I like to think they're coming to our feed and our coverage for authoritative analysis and, more often than not, wisecracks. Informed wisecracks, but wisecracks nonetheless.
I agree; it’s a mix of both. I think the coverage has become a lot more immediate in the last few years, where you really need to be offering up real-time content, whether it’s through Twitter or a live blog.
And like Barry said, you can get breaking news from CNN, etc., so your real-time coverage has to also include analysis. It can’t just be “Helen Mirren just won Best Miniseries Actress.” It has to be “Helen Mirren just won and that’s a huge upset because Elisabeth Moss was the frontrunner in this category, and Moss had previously won....” Plus a wisecrack! :)
We’ve been wrestling with this very question at DFM for the past few months. We’re really trying to understand how people consume these marquee TV events like the Oscars and the Super Bowl in 2014. Do they still turn on the TV set? Do they watch with a second screen on their lap? Do they open Facebook or Twitter on their phone and scroll through commentary from their friends? Are they at a party, or a restaurant, or are they at home with their family?
In general though, we’ve found audiences for events like these respond to an amalgamation of colour commentary, interesting facts, photos and behind the scenes.
I would encourage others to ask WHY their audience even cares about the award show in question. Are they full-blown movie nerds? Do they just want to the sound bites for the water cooler? Do they care about the awards, or do they care about keeping up with the small talk?
All really good points—especially the photos, Chris. I imagine that at awards shows, more than other stories, where there's so much talk about how everyone looks and how they're dressed, this is particularly important.
And Barry and Jen. Wisecracks are always so important :)
Good point by Chris. It all depends on your audience. Some only care about the dresses, others are hard core movie buffs. You need to know who you're targeting.
Chris, have you uncovered any answers to those questions as to how people are consuming these events?
And wisecracks can be combined with pretty dresses, then all the better.
I'm very tempted to start a wisecrack count for this chat, now, but I'm afraid we'll spend an hour cracking jokes. :)
Those are difficult questions to get real answers to. I've gotten anecdotal stuff, but we're realizing that we need to spend some time analyzing how people consume these events in different environments.
Yes, event post-mortems are always a good idea. What got the most traffic? What was most engaging on social media? You tweak from there.
Okay, okay, no wisecrack counts. Just the next question:
Do you see a difference in the engagement and/or reaction from your readers surrounding your live content (tweets, liveblogs, etc.) versus any writing you do after-the-fact? (Roundups, best- and worst-dressed, etc.)
Definitely; the real-time/live angle makes everyone feel as if they're part of an ongoing conversation, so the need to engage instantly is incredibly heightened. (Also, let's face it, everyone wants to be "first.")
I think people spend more time on the after-the-fact content, so it lends itself to more in-depth analysis. The people who are reading your live content are probably watching the show as well, and are less focused/engaged.
Ditto to Barry and Jen. Because of the nature of our award show coverage, we get more engagement in real time. But we get a major uptick in actual page views the morning after. And it's SO easy to repurpose a lot of that live coverage content for morning-after content.
I agree with Jen's last point. During an event, it can be a waterfall of information. You try to absorb what you can, but more often than not you're moving on to the next comment or event. After-the-fact coverage is an opportunity to breathe, and pick apart the things you may have missed.
Great points—sometimes when I'm tweeting during an awards show, it takes me way so long to come up with something witty and original that the moment has totally passed by the time I get it together. I admire all of you who do this in real time all the time!
With our coverage of the Globes the other week, we had a separate host for the red carpet. Once the awards show kicked in, she got right to work on recapping the best and worst dresses through slideshows. They played well that night and the morning after.
That's a smart idea, Chris. If you have the resources to spread people out, have them cover one angle expertly, then move on to the next.
Good point, Chris. Even if you have a small team covering it, someone needs to focus on the fashion, and someone needs to cover the big moments during the ceremony.
And Belinda: I often feel there is fierce competition from some reporters and commentators to come up with the best one-liners. Honestly, I feel David Itzkoff of the New York Times writes out possible material beforehand, he's so fast.
I think that's a really good point, too—know the people who are covering the event. What is their expertise? Let them play to that.
Exactly. Assigning a fashion expert to that part of our coverage turned out WAY better than anything the rest of us would have faked. Use your resources wisely!
To Barry's point on Itzkoff, it's always a good idea to prep some material beforehand. Even if it's only to get those brain muscles in the groove.
So, how has this all changed over the past few years though? I hate to sound like one of those people, but I think social media has had a fundamental impact on how we consume pop culture events such as awards shows. How have you all adjusted your coverage accordingly?
And it's great to have that fashion person cover all the awards shows, while the movie experts sticks to the movie categories, etc. By the time the Oscars rolls around, they have an in-depth knowledge of who wore what, who won what, etc. Lets you put it all into context.
Well, it's gotten more hectic. Real-time content wasn't as much of a concern a few years ago; as long as I had my fashion gallery up by the time the ceremony started, I could move on to the best/worst moments gallery. Now I need to be tweeting/live-blogging about fashion the moment the first star steps onto the red carpet.
On my part, I've adjusted to the live pace of things fairly well when it comes to the pace of social media coverage. I honestly think, in terms of award shows, it enhances the experience ten-fold. It's like being at a viewing party filled with highly smart and funny people—but with the option to interact with them or not. If only all social gatherings could be that way.
And yes, to Jen's point, it makes things more hectic, but that's all part of the fun and job of being in journalism. Things move fast, and you always have to be moving forward.
I agree with Barry. I might find it more hectic, but it's also a lot more fun because it's collaborative. And to Chris' early point, you can repurpose some of your live coverage.
That's the point, Belinda. We're all those people now. These big televised events have gone from passive broadcasts to participatory events. They are being discussed and dissected and analyzed as they are happening, instead of the morning after. This allows us in the media to capture a much bigger picture.
At least I'm not alone, Chris!
I always say: Don't treat real time coverage like extra work or an extra report. Treat it like it's your first draft. When you do that, the rest clicks into place.
That's a great point, Chris. The repurposing of the material is always a boon.
I want to shift gears here for a minute to talk about how brands are getting into the content game and how that affects you guys, as writers.
I think, for Maclean's at least, our brand is all about providing readers with a different "take" on the news. We're not just here to report things—that can be found in the dailies and on the wires. Our writers are here to make sense of it all, and to frame the discussion. So, with that said, we really want to be in the game of analysis, commentary and taking a different angle than anyone else. It makes things more difficult as a writer, certainly, but also allows us to flex our creative muscles.
As for what a brand would have to produce to be of interest for me, I'd say the whole package: live-time coverage, photo galleries of outfits and a simple round-up of winners and losers.
When I shifted into branded content for my job at Reshift, I thought it would be a bigger leap for me than it actually was. But at the end of the day, good content is good content. Whether I'm writing an article about an award show or a branded blog post on a restaurant opening, I follow the same basic rules: know my audience, try to entertain/educate them, and don’t write the same thing they can find anywhere else.
In terms of the types of social content that is most engaging to a brand's audience, it's similar to any other publication's: can they learn something from it? Are they informed or entertained? Stay away from the hard sell and self-serving content and try to offer value to your audience.
Good points, Jen. In your experience with brands and content, is this a hard sell? Or do they already have the content producers in place because they know this is a space they have to be in now?
+1 to Jen's point. No reader wants to just be shoved a brand in their face—they're there for a reason, which is the content. The brand has to play itself out in the background. Offer great content, and readers will forever associate that level of quality with the brand itself.
It's the same bottom line as anything else we do: If the content has something captivating and interesting to say, then our DFM sites will likely be interested in sharing it with their audience. Of course, when it comes from a brand, journalists will absolutley (and should be!) much more cautious. We always consider the source, and like Barry said, our job is to provide a different take that readers aren't getting elsewhere.