Here’s Why Live Blogs Are Critical for Covering Civil Unrest

From the storming of Capitol Hill to the protests in 2020 against police brutality, tensions between civilians and authorities have led to dangerous clashes recently. And although it’s unfortunate, civil unrest has been and will continue to be part of the world we live in. 

Media companies are now pursuing new, effective ways to deliver critical information and updates in these types of disturbances to keep news readers informed and engaged. That’s why live blogs are quickly becoming the content publishing format of choice for organizations that want to cover civil unrest thoroughly. 

Not only do live blogs give newsrooms a way to share quick updates and lengthier articles, but they also encourage readers to stay on publishers’ digital properties for longer. 

Max Willens, a senior reporter at Digiday, highlights how “live blogs, live update or briefing pages,… drive more content consumption, deliver stronger subscriber conversion, and tend to play an important role in subscriber retention.” 

Gain a deeper understanding of how live blogs are vital for strengthening your company’s news coverage and digital community around civil unrest below.

One Trusted Place To Gather Trusted Information

There’s nothing more convenient for newsreaders in times of crisis than having all the available news and information on a page that’s easy-to-access and navigate. 

Take the National Post, for example.

The National Post ran a live blog in February of 2020 to help people make sense of how COVID-19 was quickly changing the world around them. This news hub was used to deliver key facts on public safety, real-time updates and related longer-form content. 

Just as the National Post relied on a live blog to share ongoing information about the pandemic in a quick and accessible way, live blogs can help guide people through any crisis. 

With live blogs, you can encourage readers to return to your trusted content for accurate updates instead of social media, which is littered with misinformation.

Provide Live Updates From Mobile Devices

When media organizations cover civil unrest, the most urgent content often comes from journalists that are in the field, reporting on the events as they happen.

Many journalists already share their play-by-plays at protests and riots directly on Twitter to get critical information out as fast as possible. But as mentioned above, Twitter isn’t a trusted space for news. 

Media organizations shouldn’t have to worry about having their trusted content be associated with all the misinformation on social media. 

As a brand-safe alternative, live blogs give your journalists a way to instantly post updates to the public on your own, reliable platform. 

“The people who are actively tweeting are already halfway there to covering things live,” states Marc Lacey, assistant managing editor of live at The New York Times. 

Lacey adds that running the live update format on the Times’ platform will elevate its digital property.

“It’s more a sense of, we can reach a whole lot more people than you can on your Twitter account,” Lacey says.

Allow People To Interact and Engage With Information

Engaging your audience on your website or app is an effective way to encourage people to return to your website, build relationships with other audience members and eventually pay for a subscription. 

At The Philadelphia Inquirer, live blogs proved to have double the conversion rate of traditional articles. 

“We hadn’t developed the habit you need to get people to come back and make us a part of their every day,” explains Patrick Kerkstra, managing editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer. “The live blog has helped with that.”

You can enhance your live blog by allowing your audience members to follow your updates and interact with others. That way, you’ll be able to persuade your visitors to remain on your digital properties for trusted information and a satisfying on-site experience.

A Safe Platform To Voice Opinions

During any period of civil unrest, people are bound to have strong, conflicting opinions. Media organizations can provide a safe social space for people to discuss their thoughts, questions and concerns by allowing comments on their live blogs.

Keep in mind that organizations can leverage a sophisticated moderation system to protect conversation quality by detecting and blocking toxic user behavior. 

“[Without moderation], trolls quickly become the vocal minority, and can quickly overtake and drown out more relevant conversation,” says Leigh Adams, the director of moderation solutions at Viafoura. 

Live blogs with moderated social spaces give organizations, journalists and audience members the opportunity to connect through meaningful and productive discussions. You can also position your live blog to be a safe space for minority groups to voice their thoughts. 

In a nutshell, live blogs are powerful reporting tools that can capture your audience’s attention and keep readers engaged around trusted content when it matters most. And since the past few months have been remarkably unpredictable and chaotic, it’s important to start preparing your organization now for unexpected civil disturbances.

The Greatest Challenges in Media From 2020, Unpacked

For many, 2020 was a low point — especially with the pandemic, political turmoil and social injustices raging across the globe. These recent events have also sparked a set of ongoing business challenges within the media industry.

Thankfully, organizations are determined to stand strong and be a trusted resource for community members no matter what’s thrown their way. 

“After a year where everything was confusing, and the goalposts were always moving, the best we can do as [media] organizations is to be useful and supportive to our communities,” states Mandy Jenkins, general manager of The Compass Experiment at McClatchy.

So to help media companies become more resilient and build better relationships with their audiences and staff, we unpacked crucial takeaways from some of the greatest industry challenges of 2020. Organizations that keep these takeaways in mind will set themselves up for long-term growth and success.

Limitations on In-Person Experiences Reinforces the Need for Digital Social Experiences

The pandemic forced a large number of print media products, including newspapers and magazines, as well as in-person events to shut down practically overnight. 

While media companies are now unable to build relationships with audiences in person due to safety restrictions, brand relationships are thriving virtually. 

“This year, the sense of isolation caused by lockdown has pushed a lot of people toward online communities to fill the void left by the lack of social interactions,” states Francesco Zaffarano, the editor-in-chief of Will Media. “Although that isolation will eventually end, engaging with communities will still be the key to success in the post-pandemic world.”

By delighting audiences with online social experiences, media companies can encourage connections to form around their brands. These brand relationships will then lead to greater reader loyalty and digital revenue.

The Explosion of Misinformation Calls for Moderation

Misinformation and fake news have been circulating online for as long as the internet has existed. However, the monumental events from 2020 have amplified the reach and impact of misinformation, destroying trust and endangering safety.

A recent study of 200 million pandemic-specific social media posts even revealed that 40% of them were unreliable. 

In a world where people no longer know what information to trust, providing reliable news and building close relationships with audiences must be a priority.

That’s why it has become vital for media organizations to invest in making their owned and operated properties safe, trusted spaces for news and related conversation. 

Consider producing a trusted environment by tightening moderation on your website’s (or app’s) social spaces to prevent offensive behavior and misinformation. 

As Anna Nirmala, VP of the American Journalism Project, stresses, “having a relevant and trusted brand is linked to building relationships and engaging with the community.”

The Loss of Third-Party Cookies Means a Shift to First-Party Data

Despite shrinking company budgets and the global pandemic, 2020 threw another curveball to media companies: the end to third-party cookies

Most media leaders quickly realized that they would have to reconsider their audience data-collection strategies to survive beyond 2022, when Chrome phases out third-party cookies entirely.

Little by little, organizations are shifting focus from third-party to first-party data strategies to future-proof their businesses. After all, first-party data offers insight into what audiences find interesting and how companies can better meet their needs. 

“You have to triple down on data – not in the crude sense of chasing page views, but in the sense of infusing the [organization] with a visceral sense of who audiences are, why you matter and how you can matter more,” explains Lucy Kueng, a professor and senior research fellow at the Reuters Institute.

In other words, first-party audience data is essential for creating highly relevant content and experiences to boost the appeal of your company’s services.

Changing Work Environments Put Greater Emphasis on Improving Mental Health in the Newsroom

In recent years, the state of employee mental health at media companies has been under scrutiny. 2020 then unleashed a mass migration to remote workspaces along with an alarming number of job cuts across the media industry, adding new pressure on newsroom workers. 

“We are at an interesting point where newsroom cultures are changing very quickly and the pandemic has accelerated that,” states Reuters Global Managing Editor Simon Robinson. “The challenge now is to keep that momentum going as new remote workers are joining news [organizations] and relationship-building is getting harder.”

Business leaders must now take steps to improve mental health in the newsroom to maintain a positive, productive work environment with satisfied employees.

All throughout 2020, media companies were forced to tackle one challenge after another. Fortunately, we’ve finally entered the beginning of a healing period, where businesses can learn from the past to become more resilient and profitable moving forward.

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