The art of ‘live blogging’ by @joannejacobs (#BeMyGuest post)


Sharp. Strategic thinker. Knowledgeable. An ‘actual’ expert. A lovely person.

Say hello to Joanne Jacobs, someone I admire and respect a lot, and who very kindly agreed to tell us a thing or two about ‘live blogging’ as part of #BeMyGuest Month.

I’ll hand over to her now, but check out the links at the end of the post for more on her incredibly deep knowledge of social media. She really is fantastic.

The art of ‘live blogging’ by Joanne Jacobs

Since the rise of shorthand real-time reporting, live blogging has become a common means of recording an event. It’s more personal and can be more compelling as content than a copy of a presentation, or the words of a speech, or even a video of an event, because it can be scanned, because it can involve the opinions and perspective of the audience, and because you can feel part of a developing event without actually being there.

I suppose part of the reason why I get asked to live blog events is because I’ve been doing it for over a decade – only I called it ‘taking notes’ when I used to effectively live blog academic conferences in the late 1990s and then upload these notes in tranches during and after sessions.

In those days the comments came in via email and through other direct media - ICQ, IRC and MSN. But the intention was always the same: to capture the ideas and commentary happening in a live event or in response to live events, and to use these as a record for later review and as a source for idea development.
Being text, live blogging can sometimes give you the capacity to record lightning quick ideas that strike you while you're listening to a presentation that, captured only in notes on paper, don't have the effect that live blogging can have. 

Frequently lost and rarely revisited, paper notes only have a life if the author engages with them, where live blogging has value not just for the author, but for the audience, and it can act as a catalyst for future conversations and business propositions that would otherwise never see the light of day. 

Tricks of the trade

But to be a useful live blogger, there are a few tricks to the trade. 

First of all, for any event you want to live blog, it's always a good idea to turn up early, and to have your own broadband connection by way of a mobile broadband dongle. Even if there is broadband at the venue, there is no guarantee you will get a decent connection when you have to share it with everyone else. Having your own connection gives you an opportunity to prevent your live blogging from being lost when a venue connection goes down.

Then when you start to live blog, it's useful to announce where you are, what you're live blogging and provide links to further information about the event at the top of the post - this way peoplewho 'drop in' to your live blogging feed can catch up as you blog. 

You should also tweet your live blog as soon as you start blogging, so that readers can watch the event unfold.

Wherever possible (in the tags to the post and in tweets) use hashtags for the event. That's simply the # key and the name of the event or its abbreviation - all as a single word - like #bemyguest for these posts. It enables tracking of the event after it concludes, and it is likley to expand the readership of a live blog if people recognise the event you are covering, even if they do not know you. 

As for the structure of live blogging posts, I favour a timestamp at various points in an event, or during a session, so the reader can see how long any idea took to develop, and they can compare the time of your last update with the current time. The closer the reader is to the timestamp, the more engaged they feel with an event as it is happening.

Upload/update posts as frequently as possible. If it's a live blog of a short event (under 2 hours) then you should probably be loading content every 5-10 minutes. Any longer and your audience will assume your connectin has failed. For an all-day event it's okay to update once every 30 minutes or so, but if you come across a particularly interesting point, it's a good idea to upload and then edit an existing post to add more content, partly so you give your audience a chance to engage, and also just to make absolutely sure that you record the interesting point and it doesn't get lost in the clutter of idea recording. 

For content, I tend to report what is happening, and then add my own commentary, often in square brackets, to distinguish what I think from what the speaker is saying. As much as possible, I create live links to sources and content referred to in presentations. It adds a layer of richness to the content received in a live blogging channel because it allows readers to access the context of a point, rather than just hear what is being said. And of course for the live blogger, it enables you to return to and visit sites after the event for further review of ideas presented. 

Finally, live blogging is immensely tiring. If you do it all day at an event you will find yourself absolutely exhausted at the end of it. Even doing an hour or two can be tiring, as it requires immense concentration to be able to record all of what is being said as well as link content and add your own commentary throughout. So if you plan to live blog, be prepared for a buzzing brain and babbling tongue afterward. 

It's a rewarding and important means of engaging with ideas, but it's also the equivalent of being thrown into the deep end of a pool of new concepts, without knowing how to swim your way to coherence!
Joanne Jacobs is a London based Social Media Consultant, providing advice to firms on knowledge management through social media, word-of-mouth marketing, client engagement and execution of business strategies with emergent technologies.
She also acts as a consultant to Paratus Communications (the agency I work at).
For more on Joanne, visit her Blog at
I thought having Joanne as a guest on my Blog was especially useful (well, at least for me!) ahead of next week's Social Media World Forum in London.
I'm attending as an official blogger and will be adopting many of the techniques Joanne outlined in this post.
For more on the Social Media World Forum, click here.
Til next time.

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1 Comment

  • Reply March 9, 2010

    James Ainsworth

    Great post. As someone who has had to live blog Joanne in action (LikeMinds), I can honestly say it is hard work but well worth it!

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