Q&A: How National Post Liveblogs the News

Since launching our Liveblog add-on here at WordPress.com VIP, we’ve been impressed again and again by how fully the National Post newsroom has embraced the tool as a way to cover live events and breaking news.

They’ve used Liveblog to cover everything, from the Grammy Awards, to Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address, to the Newtown shooting, to Stephen Harper tweeting his entire day. And the results are visually stunning, with a heavy emphasis on story telling through photographs, videos, tweets, commentary, and even gifs.

We chatted with James Martin, Digital Managing Editor, to learn more about how they integrated Liveblog into their newsroom, how they prepare for big live events, and what his favorite Liveblog has been to date.

How does National Post use Liveblog?

I like to use the Liveblog for entertainment and award shows. It’s great for displaying art [videos and tweets] really quickly and efficiently. Rather than us doing picture galleries as we might have done in the past, this gives us the opportunity to do a live picture gallery as things are unfolding. When I talk to my staff about what I want, I tell them to think about including commentary, video, gifs, tweets with the pictures – the Liveblog is an easier way for us to tell a moving story.

How did you train your team on using Liveblog?

To be honest with you, it didn’t take very long to train anybody on it here. It took us about 5 minutes to learn how to use it.

The training process was me getting it implemented on one of our WordPress sites, playing with it for about 5 minutes and testing its functionality. Once I felt like we had a good grasp, I asked one of my staff members to make a 2-3 page guide with screen grabs on how to embed a picture, tweet, YouTube, along with our Liveblog style guide.

National Post’s Liveblogs are rich with pictures, videos, commentary – how does your team plan for Liveblogs?

Too many cooks can spoil a Liveblog unless there is a specific plan. We have very specific roles for people. For example, during the awards shows, one person will be tackling the winners and nominations, making sure the winner graphic goes in. We obviously have those prepared in advance by our graphics editor.

We will also have one or two people (depending on resources) for color. One person will specifically be looking for tweets that value adds on any trends we spot. We’ve also had our style columnist, Nathalie Atkinson, providing fashion commentary at the events.

For the Newtown, CT shootings, there wasn’t any time to prepare. How did your newsroom assemble a Liveblog for that?

For Newtown, we were running stories rapidly throughout the day. Our editors were trying to use their news judgment and a bit of crystal ball gazing – we just didn’t know if this was the type of thing that would work well with a Liveblog. We made the decision to start the Liveblog in probably 15 minutes, after the first reports came through.

At that stage, we were very new to the tool, and there was some learning on the run. But the way it worked best was having one person on the Liveblog, and our other journalists providing news copy to the traditional file. But, there was a lot of overlap. The person on the Liveblog was finding and discovering things, and sharing that information with the news file, and vice versa.

How has your audience responded to the Liveblogs?

The best way of answering that question is to simply look at the type of numbers we get from the Liveblogs. Straight away, the analytics told us that not only are people reading it, but they’re staying on the page a long time and the engagement is high. And, we’re seeing them come back later. That’s the best feedback.

We recently had a big snow event in Toronto. In those situations, people are making split second decisions – can I send my kids to school? Are the busses running? We started that Liveblog at 5 a.m., with quick wraps of what schools are closed, what public services are closed, that’s what people want to read. That information is not always best served in a traditional news file, since shelf life of that information could only be a couple of hours. That weather Liveblog was easily our most read story for the day.

What’s your favorite Liveblog that the National Post has done so far?

In terms of raw news, I was very proud at the way in which we were able to use the Liveblog on the Newtown shooting. In terms of being able to get actual valuable news to the reader, I was not only really amazed at how efficient the tool was at getting information across, but by how our team was able to respond to the event, and funnel what information was needed to be given to the reader quickly.

In terms of showbiz, glitz and gam, any of our showbiz awards blog are great examples of what we do here — we don’t just give people words. The Liveblog really has become an amazing interactive experience with so many dimensions to it. The latest example with The Oscars is probably the best showbiz blog we’ve done.

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Not familiar with how the WordPress.com VIP Liveblog Plugin works? Take a look at this video. It’s super easy, featuring content insertion from the front-end of the site, and drag-and-drop image uploads.

The Liveblog Add-On is $500 USD per month, with an annual subscription, for VIP SaaS Hosting clients. This includes unlimited liveblogs, and an unlimited number of users visiting, viewing, and receiving updates — all powered by our massive WordPress.com cloud infrastructure. If you’re interested in using the LiveBlog plugin or learning more, please get in touch.



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