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Deliver Olympics coverage that engages the ‘purpose generation’

News providers covering the Olympics must adopt current, audience-first strategies that cater to Gen Z and beyond

July 8, 2024 | By Naomi Owusu, CEO and Co-founder – Tickaroo@tickaroo

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics heralded the digital transformation of Games coverage. Fans no longer need to stay glued to the TV to see what they want. Nor do they have to or solely rely on news titles to keep them up to speed on the big picture. Younger audiences in particular consumed highlight clips rather than watching linear coverage and followed their favorite athletes on social media to gain a more in-depth, behind-the-scenes insights. In fact, the IOC clocked 6.1 billion digital engagements on Olympic social media channels during the competition.

Four years later, as we approach the Paris event, these trends are again set to influence international consumption of Olympic content. News and sports organizations have already learned from these new social media-inspired audience dynamics, with live blogs offering a valuable means of competing with social channels for mainstream media share of voice. The delivery of real-time, snackable content that enables interactivity will continue to be essential in 2024 Olympics coverage. Still, there are also new, broader issues to address to capture audience share – particularly among Gen Z, or ‘the purpose generation‘.

Beyond the sport

Olympics coverage is no longer simply about sport. Athletes and governments have always used the Games to spotlight pertinent social and political issues, from Black Power and anti-apartheid to LGBTQI. Now, younger generations increasingly see the potential for activism from the sidelines. Environmental sustainability and the participation of transgender athletes have emerged as important topics for Paris 2024. There’s also likely to be an impact from the substantial political tension caused by the Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas conflicts on the event. Newsrooms will need to have one eye on the sport, and one eye on the bigger picture to ensure audience engagement.

News providers covering the Olympics must, therefore, up their game (pun intended), adopting audience-first strategies that cater to the needs of Gen Z and beyond to ensure they compete in the race against social media for audience share. They must deliver authentic, personalized, and interactive content that addresses both the event and the wider issues surrounding it.

Incorporating multiple, intertwined storylines to provide greater depth and insight and encourage engagement will be vital. By doing so, they can boost traffic, dwell time or subscription conversions and encourage brands keen for Olympics association to spend money on advertising.

Prepare for the marathon, not the sprint

However, with the Games lasting two weeks and spanning 320 different competitions across 32 sports, it’s no easy feat to keep audiences up to date on the sports that interest them, provide athlete and behind-the-scenes insights and tune into the wider news stories that intersect with the Olympics. Newsrooms must, therefore, box clever when it comes to delivering on audience expectations.

Live blogs offer an important starting block to help reach this goal. They allow newsrooms to create an engaging and responsive experience tailored to the audience’s preferences by offering real-time updates, encouraging active participation, and enabling a multimedia-rich format. But live blogs can also go beyond real-time news to deliver much more.

Curated content to meet multiple audience needs

The beauty of the live blog format for long events such as the Olympics is that it allows content to be curated, drawing on a range of mixed media to tell the wider story and showcasing numerous perspectives in easily digestible snippets. From integrating Q&As with athletes and coaches for greater depth of insight to fans’ social media posts, multimedia clips of key moments or retrospective and contextual news bits relating to the environmental, political and social issues surrounding the games, live blogs can effectively serve a wide range of audience expectations.

The 2022 European Championships ably demonstrated how live blogs can communicate complex event information in simple terms for spectators, volunteers and employees. From rain delays and available transportation to coverage of medal winners, funny anecdotes and heart-wrenching athlete stories, reporters delivered both range and depth of coverage, harnessing the live blog’s visual storytelling power to share close to 600 photos of what made the event so unique. Custom tags allowed each post to be categorized so that users could easily search for and access the information they wanted.

User-generated content (UGC) creates a more engaging and inclusive narrative beyond just text. Surveys, polls, unique social media hashtags, and live comment blocks all enable a two-way flow of information. Stufffrequently uses this to good effect in their live blog coverage, giving its passionate sports community the chance to engage on topics such as the All Blacks World Cup Squad Announcement, and the team’s return home. This involves audiences in the reporting process and establishes a sense of community to strengthen the media-audience relationship.

Live blogs also allow individual journalist and editorial styles to shine through, creating further audience bonds. We see many young journalists creating social-style videos to tell stories, with their personalities influencing how viewers consume content. DER SPIEGEL’s reporters demonstrated the power of personality in their coverage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023, expressing personal opinions, cracking jokes and reacting with emojis in a lively dialogue. This gives the audience a deeper understanding of the people behind the content, injecting personality and making it more relatable and authentic.

On your mark, get set, go!

The evolution of Olympics coverage reflects the changing preferences of audiences, particularly younger generations. As we look forward to the Paris 2024 Olympics, it’s clear that news and sports organizations must continue to adapt to digital and social media consumption to compete. In order to capture and maintain audience engagement, a focus on delivering real-time, interactive, and curated content that addresses both the sporting events and the broader social, political, and environmental issues surrounding the Games is crucial.

Live blogs have emerged as a valuable tool for providing both real-time and in-depth coverage while catering to diverse audience needs and preferences. As newsrooms prepare for the marathon-like coverage of the two-week event, prioritizing audience-first strategies will be essential to ensure a meaningful and immersive Olympic experience for all. Leveraging live blogs during the Games enables publishers to inform, educate, engage, and connect with audiences on a new level.

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