The topline: Live reporting offers a tool for publishers to attract audiences and satisfy their need for a well-rounded information diet in a more social setting.
Public trust in the news is dwindling, with three in 10 UK adults admitting they don’t trust the news very much and 6% confessing they don’t trust it at all. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not limited to the UK but affects media audiences globally. A recent Gallup Poll, for example, showed a similar reality among Americans, with only 32% saying that they trust news a “great deal” or a “fair amount.”
What’s more, publishers are grappling with the fact that audiences increasingly turn to social media to get their news fix. In its annual Digital News Report, Reuters and The University of Oxford found that 30% of respondents say that social media is the main way they come across news, surpassing the 22% who access it directly. Unfortunately, social media provides a fertile breeding ground for misinformation, which (somewhat ironically) further erodes people’s trust in news.
Today’s media companies need strategies and tools that will help them re-engage audiences whose expectations have been shaped by social media. By understanding the behaviors and preferences of today’s audiences and incorporating the right tools and tactics, publishers have the ability to attract audiences and satisfy their need for a well-rounded information diet in a more social setting.
More than passing news updates
Notably, the shift to social news consumption is particularly acute among younger consumers, with people aged 18-24 less likely to use a news website or app and more dependent on social media for news. And these young consumers’ information preferences have been molded by their use of social media and mobile content consumption. Our own research finds consumers want easily understandable and readily available content. In fact, 26% of 18-34-year-olds say that they prefer news updates in short, bite-sized segments.
One of the strategies publishers can implement to replicate the social media experience–while continuing to provide quality news and information–is through the use of live blogs. Live blogs allow media companies to provide readers with an enriched and authentic experience that replicates the benefits of social media while addressing key challenges such as lack of engagement, misinformation, and declining trust.
A live blog allows publishers to provide real-time commentary, updates, and coverage on breaking news or unfolding events. Despite their rise in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic – where they served as a valuable tool for disseminating rapidly emerging critical information – live blogs have been around for quite some time.
However, publishers around the world are now working to refine their live blog strategies to capture the best aspects of the social media experience but serve as more than just a format that provides the latest superficial updates. These publishers build trust and credibility among their audiences through this more social way of authentic storytelling.
The style of live blogs resembles a mobile-friendly social media timeline. Therefore, it gives consumers news in the format they crave. It caters to the habits and preferences of users accustomed to consuming content through scrolling on their mobile phones.
Interactivity and engagement
To increase audience engagement, publishers can also incorporate interactive elements such as polls, videos, and live comment blocks into their live blogs. These mirror many popular features found on social media platforms. For example, journalists from the New Zealand publisher Stuff interacted directly with readers as millions of people attempted to get tickets to Taylor Switft’s Eras Tour in Australia. With over 150 comments on their live blog, the journalists were able to build a community with their readers as they all shared their triumphs and frustrations with one another in real-time.
Some publishers even use live blogs to provide their audiences with direct access to experts in various fields. MDR, a public German broadcaster, did this particularly well during the Covid-19 pandemic and cost of living crisis. They encouraged readers to post their questions in a comment block within the live blog. Then, the expert answered their questions directly in the chat. This tactic increases trust by giving readers access to experts in their field and reinforcing the expertise of a media outlet’s team. It also helps provide a more balanced view of events through the inclusion of a variety of perspectives, reducing the perception of spin.
With live blogs, individual personalities can come out, which allows journalists to foster better relationships with their audience. For example, reporters covering sports at Süddeutsche Zeitung engage with their audience using a lighter tone than their formal journalism. This injects personality into their coverage and makes it more relatable and enjoyable for readers, mirroring the conversational style often seen in social media interactions.
Another key advantage of live blogs is their ability to prevent endless doomscrolling by providing a curated and limited amount of verified information and data. This way, readers can choose the most relevant information to them based on their own needs and preferences without becoming overwhelmed with too much content.
It’s a challenging time for publishers and newsrooms around the world. The emergence of generative AI search results, along with audiences’ increasing frustration with the news (not to mention the fact that social media platforms are distancing themselves from news), create higher barriers to engagement.
In the year ahead, publishers should turn their attention to incorporating strategies that replicate the elements audiences love most about social media to keep consumers engaged and coming back for more. Implementing this approach can help publishers meet the needs of the modern consumer, who favors receiving their news in short, bite-sized segments. Live blogs allow media companies to capture the essence of the social media experience while addressing lack of engagement, misinformation, and declining trust.