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.

These Three Actions Will Save Staff Time and Effort in the Newsroom

For many newsrooms, the past few months have been a battlefield as resources strained under the pressure of tightened budgets and significant global events

News organizations that have survived until now have adapted their processes to overcome the hurdles of working remotely, a higher demand for news and reduced staff. Moving forward, newsrooms will need to continue to embrace time-saving strategies to boost workplace efficiency.

“There’s been a lot of conversation about what a return to normal looks like,” says Jon Laurence, the supervising executive producer at AJ+. “And actually just as I don’t think that society is going to return to the old normal, I think that’s true of the press as well… the workflow changes that we’ve made… are just more efficient in some cases.”

Media companies can greatly reduce the time and effort they invest in various everyday tasks to focus on higher-value work. To accomplish this, all they need to do is put a few simple strategies into action.

Explore three ways media companies can save their newsrooms time and energy below.

Automating Comment Moderation

Perhaps one of the largest lessons media companies have discovered this year is that audience engagement is everything when it comes to building sustainable reader revenue. And commenting tools that are properly moderated are key to developing engaged, loyal community members. 

However, effective comment moderation often requires a massive amount of attention, time and training from staff. 

That’s where machine-based automation comes in. 

Newsrooms can enlist the help of moderation engines, equipped with artificial intelligence and machine learning qualities, to manage toxic comments. Instead of relying on staff to manually skim comment threads, automatic moderation systems can instantly identify and block incivility from the moment a user tries to publish a comment.

This means that machine automation in the newsroom, like automated comment moderation, has the power to free up time for journalists and editors.

Just be sure to select a moderation system that can detect all 6.5 million variations of each toxic word, understand local language and support your community guidelines.

Concerned that automating comment moderation will threaten employee jobs? 

Rather than eliminating the need for staff, Francesco Marconi, a journalism professor at Columbia University, explains that machines “will in fact reorient editors and journalists towards value-added content.”

Outsourcing Moderation on Your Social Spaces

Although machines are capable of detecting most forms of toxicity in social spaces, humans are still needed to train any intelligent algorithm and manage trolls. Together, the combination of automatic and human moderation can keep your community protected from spam and offensive content. 

But that doesn’t mean you have to overwhelm your staff with moderation responsibilities. You can transfer the burden of human moderation to a highly trained third-party provider. As a result, newsroom staff will have more time to establish strong connections with digital visitors.

[Outsourcing moderation can save] yourself time and resources that can be better spent engaging directly with your users,“ explains Leigh Adams, director of moderation at Viafoura, in a recent webinar. “Making sure that you’re highlighting [your most active users’] content [and] featuring their comments… allows your readership to feel like they’re part of the ecosystem and feel valued.”

Consider making the most of third-party moderation by outsourcing the heavy lifting for your owned and operated properties as well as your social media accounts.

Pulling Content Ideas Directly From the Community

Journalists and editors understand that pitching content ideas is an art form. Coming up with original, relevant ideas that resonate with audience members time and time again can be a painstaking process for newsroom staff.

To take some of the guesswork out of the content-creation process, news companies are finding content inspiration directly from their communities. More specifically, media organizations have started to produce high-performing content by asking community members about their information needs. 

Not only can leveraging content ideas from the community save staff time researching topics to pitch, but it can also help to secure strong relationships with readers. 

Anna Nirmala, vice president of the American Journalism Project, emphasizes that, in the coming months, “[it] will be understood that having a relevant and trusted brand is linked to building relationships and engaging with the community.”

Ultimately, asking your readers what they’re interested in reading about — whether that be through social tools, surveys or another method of communication — will save staff time and energy while paving the way for highly trusted and engaging content. 

By reducing time-consuming tasks in the newsroom, staff can spend more time creating positive user experiences that matter to visitors.

Four Reasons Why Consumers Will Pay for a Media Subscription

Subscriptions are, without a doubt, helping to sustain the media industry. As the number of people willing to pay for subscriptions grows, this revenue stream is becoming essential for any media company hoping to survive.

Purse strings may be tight, but sustained growth in subscriptions [is] up by 19% year-on-year,” explains Dan Ison, a consulting partner at Deloitte.  

This means that media companies are witnessing an increasing level of willingness among people to invest in top-quality content and experiences.

And a wealth of information that could help you maximize subscription sales is within your reach. Prepare to find out precisely what makes consumers want to hand over some cash in exchange for a media subscription.

Meaningful Connections

Take a moment to ask yourself a simple question: Would you pay for something you don’t feel connected to? Odds are, you probably wouldn’t.

You can bet that your company’s online visitors will say the same thing: they aren’t going to pay for a subscription if they don’t feel connected to your brand. 

Rob Tornoe, a columnist and cartoonist for Editor and Publisher, notes that successful membership projects are powered by “an editorial mindset that values a strong relationship with readers.” 

But a relationship is a two-way street. In other words, both parties need to participate for it to become meaningful enough to invest time and energy into it. 

Of course, strong relationships can’t be formed with a middleman blocking you from your potential subscribers. Media companies must take back control of their audiences by establishing social connections on their own websites and apps, away from the trolls, misinformation and inaccessible user data on social media.

Once you show your audience members that they can nurture a connection with or around your company in a safe space, your organization will start to matter to them and so will your subscription fee.

Supportive Resources

When people visit a media company’s website or app, they’re often looking to be supported with relevant information, entertainment or social engagement. 

If you can prove to visitors that your organization offers a reliable, trusted source of support, you’ll boost your chances of earning their loyalty as subscribers. 

“[People] trust your [organization] to solve their problem, or achieve their goal, forever,” says Robbie Kellman Baxter, a business strategy consultant. “They take off their ‘consumer hat’, don a ‘member hat’ and stop considering alternatives.”

Being Understood

Humans are naturally driven by habit, meaning that we all demonstrate similar behaviors over and over again. In the digital world, the unique needs and desires of internet users are made visible by these distinct behaviors through first-party data. 

Quartz President Katie Weber states that for companies to achieve subscription growth, they must “focus on really, deeply understanding the audience, what their needs are and where they might be underserved by other publications.” 

Organizations can gain insight into each user’s behavior and habits simply by tapping into their user data. Companies that then take the time to provide personalized experiences for their visitors can strengthen overall interest in their digital offerings. As a result, visitors will be more engaged and attentive to a subscription package.

Gaining Access to Exclusive Experiences

Recently, many media companies have seen significant subscriber growth directly tied to locking exclusive (a.k.a “premium”) experiences behind a paywall.

France-based news company Le Parisien has even doubled its paying members by reserving premium content for subscribers. Now, 90% of its subscriber base is generated through these exclusive articles, which draw on user data to maximize engagement.

Media companies can follow suit with high-converting subscriber experiences by reserving content, social tools, podcasts and events for paying subscribers. After all, interesting and relevant experiences are often worth paying a small price to access.

While people are more willing than ever before to pay for a subscription to a media company, there’s an unlimited number of competitors fighting for their attention. Not to mention that each person will only pay for a small number of media subscriptions.  

The only way to make your content and services stand out from the rest is to exceed your visitors’ expectations. Create meaningful relationships with audience members, support visitors and produce personalized and exclusive experiences to win over potential subscribers before they ever have a chance to spend their time and money elsewhere.

How Media Companies Can Make the Most of Their Election Day Coverage

National elections are notorious for creating ripples of tension and conflict throughout the public. But with political misinformation and uncertainty sure to be amplified by the pandemic, this year’s U.S. presidential election will be unlike any other previous election. 

Now, news organizations will be tasked with navigating this incredibly unpredictable landscape. And media companies will need to take an all hands on deck approach to keep the public informed every step of the way.

“There’s a growing realization that the complexity of this year’s electoral landscape — from pandemic-related social distancing and poll-staffing disruptions to mail-in voting and a combustible year of public protests — likely means that some of the presidential campaign’s biggest drama might very well play out in the hours and days after Election Day,” write Vivian Schiller, NPR’s previous CEO, and Garrett M. Graff, a former editor at Politico Magazine. 

Consumers will undoubtedly be surrounded by chaos during the election. That’s why it’s up to media companies like yours to cut through the inevitable misinformation and drama with engaging and truthful news coverage. 

Using the following powerful community engagement strategies, you can hook the public on your accurate and responsible reporting as the election heats up.

Implement Live Blogs

Looking for a way to bump up the visitor experience on your website around the U.S. election? Live blogs offer a simple way to organize all of your reliable, relevant information — whether that be through complete articles, Tweets or even comments from staff. 

Part of the appeal of launching a live blog is that you don’t have to produce an entire article on every new piece of information. Instead, you can keep your audience informed in a highly efficient way through a mixture of long-form and short-form content. 

FiveThirtyEight, for instance, has launched a live blog that will keep visitors updated on critical and interesting information until the election ends. 

Plus, if the election results period goes on for an extended amount of time, you can continue to direct your readers to a single information hub. 

Just be sure that your readers have the opportunity to engage with your live blog so you can continue to strengthen your community. Giving your visitors the ability to comment and like your content will help your users form lasting connections with each other around your organization.

Send Out Push Notifications

On Election Day, countless news organizations will be competing with one another for consumer attention. So how do you win over that attention before your competitors do? 

Relying on push notifications to break major news stories can quickly re-engage community members around new content.

After testing push notifications earlier this year that encouraged people to vote, NBC News reports that its alerts had open rates of up to 16%. 

While this news coverage tactic can certainly direct attention to your news site or app during the election, it can also help ensure consumers stay informed around major topics and issues.

Personalize the News Feed

If you can delight consumers with content that’s highly relevant to their interests, you’ll have a better chance of persuading them to stay on your digital properties. 

Many publishers are planning to do precisely that by personalizing online experiences in light of the U.S. election. A compelling way to customize visitor experiences is to adjust their news feeds on your website or app to reflect their behavior and content interests. 

Based on a survey, the director of research at Digital Content Next explains that “consumers do expect websites and apps to collect data about them in order to personalize, protect, and improve their experience.”So when it comes to using data to delight your visitors, don’t hold back.

Recommend Trending Conversations

Comment sections can add depth to any news story and strengthen online communities.

In fact, the editorial staff at The Correspondent spend 30 to 50% of their time engaging with community members within the comments. This is because consumers form meaningful relationships and build loyal habits through conversations. 

On Election Day, conversation tools will give active visitors a chance to engage with brands, exchange knowledge and, best of all, talk about content for longer. 

While you may already be familiar with the benefits of hosting moderated conversation online, you may be less familiar with the appeal of recommending trending conversations to visitors

Highlighting active conversations for your users can boost the overall power of your commenting tools. As a result, you can keep your engaged community members reading your content and interacting with other members for as long as possible throughout the election. 

While this year’s election certainly has its own set of challenges for news organizations, nearly every challenge has a silver lining. 

In this case, with the right tools and strategies in place, media companies have a significant opportunity to win over loyal readers with exceptional news coverage.

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