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January 16, 2018

6 Best Practices from Zeit Online For Live Blogging Breaking News

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6 Best Practices For Live Blogging Breaking News


from Zeit Online

by Gideon Lehmann  |  Jan 17, 2018

National elections, terror attacks or fast-changing situations in world affairs: these are all examples of the types of live breaking news stories for which the German news outlet Zeit Online uses Live Blog.

As one of Germany’s largest news organizations, Zeit Online attracts over nine million viewers a month to its website. At times, a substantial amount of this traffic can be driven by its live blog coverage. We recently sat down with Sybille Klormann, lead editor for all live blogging projects, to learn about Zeit Online’s best practices for this dynamic form of real-time coverage.

#1 Choose your coverage strategically

A live blogging tool is ideal for fast and rapid-changing news. However, prior to beginning your live coverage, it’s always important to verify what is actually happening and think about the best way to cover the story.

Once the situation is verified, the local and regional implications must be considered. News providers only have a small window of time to decide if it’s in their editorial interest to cover the story, meaning that they must gauge whether or not there’s enough interest and popularity among their audience.

For example, Zeit Online chose to cover the airport attack in Brussels with a live blog since it was of significant interest. Other examples in which it was necessary to decide quickly whether or not using a live blog were the terror attacks in Manchester or Berlin.

#2 Think in terms of editorial resources

To produce a good live blog requires some advance planning. Some practical questions to consider might include: is there enough staff available at that particular moment and are there reporters on the scene able to provide information, verify facts, as well as submit images and videos?

Another question concerns the linguistic capacity to cover a particular story. Klormann cited examples where a language barrier at first made it difficult to provide adequate live coverage, specifically the 2016 attempted coup in Turkey. In cases like this, Zeit Online needed to rely on secondary sources of information, which made things more difficult than usual, Klormann reported.

#3 Build in communication and collaboration tools

Using established lines of communication is essential for a time-sensitive format like live blogging. Zeit Online’s preferred channel is Slack. Klormann reports the editorial team uses this communication and collaboration tool in order to share information among their reporters and affiliates across the globe. They use this network not only to share information, but also for receiving remote blog contributions as well as to conduct quick and accurate background and fact-checking research. Finally, Live Blog can also be used as a collaboration tool, to let newsroom staff know who’s working on which story at any given moment.

#4 Adapt to the changing media landscape

Because news consumers have taken a much greater interest in live blogs, Klormann observed that the format has also become more professional In the current media environment, live blogs are a go-to form of storytelling. Rather than asking themselves what to cover in this way, news agencies are devoting more energy to how they should structure their live blogs.

In one instance, when Zeit Online covered the battle for Mosul, they experimented with what was referred to as a “slow blog”. Instead of the standard instant-update format, Zeit Online collected and curated various articles as background information using their live blogging tool. They felt that this was a unique and innovative way to consolidate and present all of the articles and updates related to the battle, which took place over a longer period of time.

#5 Take advantage of new technology

Advancements in technology are another point of consideration as they not only make the blogging process faster and simpler, but also provide live blogs with a sleeker appearance and allow for the integration of more types of multimedia. For example, embeds have become much more sophisticated and are a popular way to share a variety of media; social media activity has increased; mobile devices play a larger role in both the consumption and production of news; and the ability for news consumers to interact and engage with the news via a comments section has also become commonplace.

#6 Use professional live blogging software

Zeit Online has been using Live Blog for a number of years. Sybille Klormann also commented that live blogs drive lots of traffic to the site, especially when it comes to breaking news events.

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