Past The Press Box

Is live blogging sporting events dying?

Almost every sports blog has, at some point or another, ran a live blog on a particular game or event. This process of rapidly updating one blog post with short insight and commentary on a game was extremely popular a few years ago and almost expected of any blog covering a particular team.

As Shel Israel of Global Neighborhoods notes in his blog bost, In loving memory of live blogging, the practice was very popular in the coverage of technology conferences but has since faded with the advent of Twitter.

Then along came Twitter. Obviously, I considered this also important and revolutionary. I still do. But it has occurred to me that this, faster, easier, shorter way of reporting through "live tweets" has replaced the longer, deeper, more thoughtful social media form,at of live blogging. It has done so in a very short period of time and my sense is something is being lost.

Tweets by their nature are terse. An audience members usually says who is speaking & maybe the topic. A rave review is the that she or he "rocks." But the coverage of what is actually being said is reduced. So are the questions and comments coming from outside the room.

This is happening in the world of sports as well. But with sports, Twitter isn't the only thing tool being used as an alternative to true live blogging. A service called CoverItLive is used on several popular blogs. ESPN has also jumped in the live blogging game with their Section 140 and Virtual Pressbox, which operates very similarly to to the CoverItLive. While both are better than traditional live blogging, and each have their advantages, they aren't what I would use to cover a game.

Before going into CoverItLive and Section 140, here's a few reason why I believe live blogging is dying, and should.

  • It's ridiculously tedious. I've done it before and always get frustrated having to go back and constantly save the same post, adding a bullet as the game progresses. Eventually you have one post that goes on for pages, looking ridiculous.
  • It's isolated. You have to navigate to the post and constantly refresh in order to get the most recent copy. Unless you're a frequenter of the blog or a diehard fan of the team, you're probably not going to see it.
  • There's very little communication. While the author of the blog should certainly be presented as an authority on the subject, being the only one speaking during a game can place yourself above the audience.

Now, onto  ESPN's Section 140/Virtual Pressbox and CoverItLive: it's a glorified commenting system and chatroom. When I first heard about ESPN's service, I had high hopes, hoping tWWL would bring in content from Twitter and making it more readable to those who didn't use the service. In reality, the Virtual Pressbox is almost identical to CoverItLive, which provides a chatroom running througout the game, presenting the writers' updates set aside from the rest. It enables polls of readers as well. These two services do have their advantages though. Here's are a few CoverItLive's positives:

  • It's easily accessible. You know exactly where to go to find discussion on the game from those who are interested. You know that the discussion will revolve around the game you're looking for insight on.
  • It's very convenient. It updates easily and all the technical aspects are completely taken care of.
  • It's conversational. Even if the comments from readers are slightly downplayed, they are there. Writers can quickly interact, answering questions and commenting on any polls that are conducted.
  • Great set of features. You can bring in images and live video (via UStream). You can pull in up to 12 Twitter accounts (while limited, this is huge). Check out the complete list.

One of the big downsides on a service like this: it costs money. Not to read, but to host on your own blog.

And Twitter; why I'd use it for live blogging:

  • It's free. Pretty simple, it's easy for the writer to get on there, nothing barring a reader to do the same.
  • It isn't a 'walled garden'. It spreads very easily. If you want people to be able to read your Twitter feed on your blog, they can. If they want to read the comments on the web, they can. If they want to put it on their desktop and in a column it alongside others with entertaining commentary on the game.
  • It's mobile. If you want to live blog from a game, you can. I've done it before and with the use of services like Twitpic and Twitvid, provides content you're not going to find anywhere else.
  • Easy to update. Like CoverItLive, all the technical aspects are taken care of and it's easy to update immediately . You don't have to wait for the post to update and the formatting is easy.
  • Lists. At first, I wasn't big on lists. I wasn't going to go on Twitter and relist my followers after I'd already broken them down on Tweetdeck. Well, now I can export those lists. I really need to do it further, but right now I have a column/list for the 350 sportswriters, sports bloggers, sports marketers, athletes and follow on Twitter. It was simple to create and I can share it with whoever. Say I were operating a Portland Trailblazers blog, I can quickly create list of sportswriters, bloggers and fans who I know are also watching the Cavs/Blazers game tonight and share that with my blog's readers.

While Shel Israel is hesitant to accept services like Twitter as a superior alternative to traditional live blogging, I am not. It's more conversational, it's more accessible, updateable and—at least in the realm of sports—the updates on live blogs weren't any more in-depth than the tweets most people are providing.

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Comments (3) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Brian - December 11, 2009 1:52 PM

I never really saw the point to most live-blogs of games. 95% of them were people just doing play-by-play or stats, etc.

Even analysis isn't all that interesting, because let's face it - there are only so many angles to take on any given sports act/scenario.

The uniquely entertaining or creative ones are few and far between.

I dunno - was never a fan of them - but yes the social aspect should kill off what's left of them. The conversation and interaction is what has value.

Colin O'Keefe - December 15, 2009 9:01 AM

Very true. I can't remember many times I sat down and followed a live blog throughout the entire course of a game, or even a decent chunk of one.

When I wrote them for a University of Montana sports blog I authored in the past, I only did so because I felt obligated and knew that I'd be doing essentially the same thing on a message board. Figured I might as well move the content to where more people can see it. Now, that's Twitter and other outlets.

Jay Acunzo - April 15, 2011 8:40 AM

I don't think live blogging is necessarily "dead" (the character limit on Twitter and the ability to report from conferences or non-televised events at length being two small reasons why). But I believe it's endangered because of all the great reasons listed above.

One thing to call out, though: because Twitter is SO mobile and SO social and SO easy...people tend to abuse it. What's helpful about a blogger tweeting, "Great dunk!"? Nothing.

Those who use Twitter properly to "live blog" are surfacing things the TV audience can't see during games or won't readily know. Much better: "What a dunk! Melo just winked at LeBron's mom on the way up the court!" or "5th pick and roll by the Knicks: 2 layups, 1 vicious Melo dunk"

Guess what I'm saying is, it's getting harder to sort through the noise. Lists are a great option, I agree.

The American Sportswriter_