Great answers everyone - so building a community is key but any tips on getting the community started for Cody?
@ Cody: Users love it if you communicate with them directly. Chat with them. Speak to them directly.
Of course if you have maybe 60 comments coming in per minute or so, then that's a bit tricky. :-)
And users like if you're chatting with a sense of humor - that's my experience.
I think everyone finds that in the beginning, we had our fun getting everyone we know to send in questions in the early days. Promotion is one thing and Social Media plays a big part in that but creating a regular placeholder for people is also a great technique. If users know the time and the place to get involved you will see the participation grow. If it's just at random times then it's harder to get the people through the door.
I think going into any sort of live coverage you have that feel for what topic has the most buzz. Even if you've set it up as a Q/A format, there's nothing wrong with flipping the tables. Offer up a question or a topic for debate and then use those comments from readers and their comments to jump start the exchange. Those comments will soon become questions -- or at least offer things that you can riff off of with other readers. It's possible to spur involvement by using polls or throwing an assertion (I'd guess you'd call it debate bait) out there that you know will get bites.
And Tom is right, personality is key. It needs to feel like a person, not something automated or corporate. Have fun with them, we all get caught up in sport being so serious sometimes, but it doesn't always have to be.
Perfect point Derrick. I had been typing in almost the same answer, I can spare that now. :-)
Amazing - polls, humour, personality and getting your friends involved to get the ball rolling - really useful tips guys!
Lets move the conversation to the nitty gritty of real-time reporting...
Robert, That is something that I've been slow to embrace in some arenas, to be honest. There was always this sense when I started in journalism that nobody reads the byline. Social media and the instant nature of the coverage nowadays means the personality has to come out. You have to let readers in. Whether that's your voice, your interests, your hobbies beyond your beat -- any of that helps put a more personal touch on the conversation. Otherwise, you're right, they feel they're talking to an automaton.
When you’re covering a match in real-time what are the most important elements to consider? Is there anything specific that you would recommend preparing in advance?
@Robin: Our users love stats. So that is something you can prepare in advance. And then spill it out in small portions.
You have to approach it the same way you would a match report in your prep first up. People will still expect it to be based on knowledge as well as the personality we talked about. If we fall down on the knowledge then we lose the big sports fans straight away. So that includes stats and historical data to call upon, always great to have in the armoury, especially if the live isn't 'compelling'.
One of the things we do with our live blog is we spark the coverage with news from the day. For baseball, the starting point is usually that day's lineup. We post it early in the afternoon, as soon as it's released, and then build the live blog from there. News will appear there first. Injury updates. Analysis on what it means. We do build stats into that so that the readers might get a sense of what to expect from the game ahead. It does serve as an advance scouting report. I think the preparation for a liveblog or a chat is pretty similar to what you would do for a feature story or a deadline article. It's all reporting.
I think it is very important to sense the emotional state of your community and reflect on it.
Very often I will comment on a user's comment by adding another twist. Sometimes I'm a bit cheeky there. But it works if it's still humorous enough.
Great point Derrick, something we are looking to do much more this season in football. Starting our live blogs up to 24 hours before has proved really effective in building up excitement and engagement for a live event.
Good to know Derrick - start the event early and build momentum with stats, team news etc...
That's great advice and something we recommend our clients to do - build up the momentum before hand - there's always going to be enough news to keep readers interested!
Just to follow on from that question then - do you follow any specific rules when live reporting. Do you try and include a certain proportion of reader comments/tweets/images/text or is it more instinctive than that?
That's pretty much how our Transfer Clockwatch works as well, one blog running the whole time and the numbers are crazy!
To Robin's question on the rules of live reporting: I do try to keep in mind that the goal is to drive traffic to our coverage and break news on our site whenever possible. We're out to highlight The Post-Dispatch's coverage and bring people to it, not simple fire off a little news on Twitter and let it drift, untethered to our site. That's very important, I think. Images, texts, add to that. I think to a point it's instinctual and it's timing. Everything starts with the question how can I grow the traffic/audience and do that for our site/paper? From there, you do kind of float with the rhythms of the news and the game. When and how to include readers comments into a liveblog/chat is far more art than science. That definitely takes a feel for the pulse of that particular liveblog/chat. Just like games, no two are the same ...
I always talk about live sport having a certain pulse to them, and our live blogs should reflect the pace of that pulse. Sometimes an event can be all action and so that action should be the focus, sometimes it's a bit stop/start and sometimes it's just stop. The blog should reflect that the amount of comments, colour and links we bring into them and when we bring them in. Of course it also depends on the sport as well.
Instinct and timing - very good points, Derrick. Liveblogging is a craft, sometimes even an art. To do it really well, you have to have a lot of training, I think.
Right. Fill the quiet moments in a game. Capture the action. I always think of the liveblog for a game as a series of sidebars. Merely repeating the action doesn't do it. You can provide context for what has happened and then when nothing is happening start writing about what will ...
That's true - it's very sport dependent. I think cricket lends itself best to real-time: slow, lots of banter/discussion, enough time to write proper analysis and lots of technical bits and pieces you can throw in too - I suppose it may be the similar for baseball...
I agree, Tom. It's not just training. You need to have a lot of experimenting, too.
It is. Baseball is a great sport for liveblogging because of its sustained tension -- highlighted by spikes of unexpected action, which could come on any pitch.
Couldn't agree more, we're a broadcaster so we have to bear in mind that people could be watching what we're blogging on. Simply relaying that back isn't enough, we must add more...which is why our live blogs around the cricket are done from the commentary box, gives us a great chance to add that colour in and insight from our experts from off screen as well as on.
In my experience it doesn't matter if you cover fast, action packed sports or slower sports such as cricket.
But you can't report on the one as you would do on the other.
Yes @Robert - I love how you get the commentators to record quick videos to add to the live blog - really personal touch!
Like always in this area, you have to try things. They don't always work but how else do you find that out, don't be afraid of getting no response to something because it's gone and onto the next thing soon enough. Those videos were a prime example...
Really interesting insight guys!
I thing a good liveblog is always a good mixture of facts and emotions. Does that sound too simple?
That sounds about right to me Tom!
Not at all. A splash of analysis to complete the recipe. The exact mix depends on the audience, I suppose.
Right - we've got time for one last question and it's only a wee one...
Now that fans can get direct access to their favourite players and teams via Twitter / official websites - what is going to ensure that you remain relevant/ don't become obsolete - will there always be a place for sports reporters?
Yeah, OK. That's a wee one. Quick: Argue your relevance! Go.
Yup simple - why do you exist...? :-)
Here Derrick's point comes in: we as journalists can do the analyses of what the players and teams put on their personal/club/team accounts. Do assess what is being said, analyse why they say it etc.
Journalism is what it's always been, and Tom and Derrick's point stands true. The difference is that the process is much more visible online than it ever was before. Doesn't mean that people don't need a journalist to do the analysis of what is happening.