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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Election coverage for better engagement, retention and revenue 

April 17, 2024 | By Naomi Owusu, CEO and Co-founder – Tickaroo @tickaroo
The topline: Connecting with audiences and deriving value from election coverage is becoming more difficult but there are tactics and tools to improve engagement. 

More than half of the global population will vote in 2024, marking a massive year for politicians, voters, and the media. However, trust in the news is waning, news avoidance and news fatigue are on the rise, and brands express reluctance to advertise around election coverage. Connecting with audiences and deriving value from election coverage is becoming harder. But by reframing and augmenting how news organizations already approach political reporting, we can meet audience and advertiser requirements in a way that benefits all. 

Traditional horse race reporting does, of course, continue to have a role, but it has limitations. If the reader does not understand a candidate’s policies and their relevance, will they care if they win or lose? Election reporting needs to meet audiences where they are. It must provide them information and analysis of the issues that matter to voters to impact reader engagement and subscription conversion and bring advertiser revenue back. 

Moving beyond horse race journalism

With their digestible format, social media-friendly user experience, and great SEO, liveblogs have increasingly become an established means of covering developing stories like elections because they meet the “update me” audience need. Yes, liveblogs are still a useful medium for horse race coverage. However, they have evolved to enable much more.  

With the Citizen’s Agenda model also trending away from politician-led election coverage in favor of the issues and topics that voters want to hear about, there’s real potential for publishers to go beyond typical horse race liveblog styles by integrating other types of coverage. By harnessing liveblogs’ multimedia nature, publishers can leverage audience-first direct interaction strategies that drive better results. It’s all about creating a wider narrative.

Enhanced storytelling with liveblogs

Liveblogs can be used to build an array of election coverage that strengthens the narrative, ensures relevance, and drives engagement. While they have become synonymous with real-time updates, it’s good to remember that liveblogs can take different formats to help tell the broader election story.

For example, the German title Zeit Online used interviews with 49 individuals representative of German society in the run-up to the 2021 national elections to build a picture of citizens’ concerns about everyday and election issues. By sharing interview excerpts, video clips, and imagery, the publication harnessed a wide range of electorate voices to build trust and engagement with its audience. 

User-generated content, from user polls to comment functionality and information requests, can also foster a sense of community and inclusion. Including the readers’ voice helps them feel socially connected and keeps them coming back for more.

Stuff New Zealand invited readers to have their say on how the Government handled the cost of living crisis. It also flagged another article and included a poll and further comment opportunities. This approach keeps readers on the site for longer by allowing them to participate in relevant conversations. And, by including clear UGC and comment terms and conditions, it builds transparency and trust. 

Providing context for better information delivery

A core issue in election news avoidance and fatigue is also related to the complex nature of the topics. If readers are not already conversant with the landscape and issues, they can easily switch off. Liveblogs can counter this by providing contextual information that complements core election coverage. On their politics liveblog, Stuff includes a “what you need to know” section that helps readers make sense of events. It also links to related articles on the site, which increases session duration. Other publishers, such as Spiegel and Stern use a highlight feature to spotlight the most important updates. 

Graphs, diagrams, and maps add helpful visual aids to illustrate concepts that are harder to convey in words. Live Q&As with third-party experts can also deliver helpful information in response to reader questions, as used by mdr during the Covid-19 pandemic. By providing readers with the chance to directly ask a medical expert questions, they were able to help dispel some of the myths and disinformation contributing to panic. 

The same tactic can help explain and simplify complicated election concepts and policies to make them more accessible. Gaining direct insight from readers on what they want to hear about by using live Q&As also aligns with the Citizen’s Agenda model. While it suggests journalists go out and ask in person, liveblogs’ comment functionality enables this to also be done online. Publications can then tailor content to suit audience needs and expectations. This, in turn, shows that a media brand values its readers and is invested in building a trusting, two-way relationship. 

Engaging liveblog features to enrich revenue opportunities

By harnessing liveblogs’ full potential to effectively engage readers, publications can also change the perspective of advertisers who have been reluctant to put budgets alongside political reporting. With the integration of contextual adverts at custom rates between posts, and the opportunity to advertise in an even less intrusive way through sponsorships, liveblogs represent a win-win for publishers, readers, and advertisers alike. 

In today’s media landscape of news fatigue, avoidance, and short attention spans, election coverage can be a hard nut to crack. To be successful, editorial teams need to make reporting more dynamic, meeting audiences where they are with tailored content, easy-to-consume formats, and true two-way interaction. Liveblogs provide a solution to this challenge, enhancing the reader experience, building greater engagement over political reporting, and demonstrating to advertisers that there is value in spending money around election season.

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