Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Does Liveblogging Suck?

Is it just me, or does liveblogging really, really suck?

I appreciate the value of up-to-the-minute information as much as anyone. But I can't ever recall reading a liveblog of anything and coming away feeling like I learned something. I mean no offense to my colleagues who have liveblogged at one time or another, but I have to question whether the activity has any value at all.

There are two types of events that can be liveblogged. The first is something like a speech or a conference that the readers are not attending. The second is something like a presidential debate, which the readers are presumably watching with their laptops open, following the liveblog while they watch the event.

In the former case, it is undoubtedly better for the blogger to take some notes, then write something coherent up when it's all over. The resulting product will inevitably be more edifying than what he or she can produce frantically typing while trying to listen out of one ear for whatever's coming next. The added value to the reader of learning about the event in "real time," as opposed to an hour or two later, is almost nil, and certainly outweighed by the added perspective the blogger will offer after seeing the whole thing.

As for the latter case, the principle is basically the same. Most liveblogging seems to consist mostly of relating what's going on. "Guiliani just said he'd personally bite off Khalid Sheik Mohammed's fingers...McCain is sweating...Romney looks like a phony..." OK, but either I'm watching it myself, in which case it isn't all that helpful, or I'm not and I'll read about it later, in which case the play-by-play ends up reading as so spotty that it doesn't add up to much. I want to know what the various brilliant bloggers thought about the last debate, but having them post their thoughts before it's over doesn't really add anything.

I'm not saying there could never, ever be a case of useful liveblogging. But doing it on something like a presidential debate? I can't see why one would bother.

So just what is the value of liveblogging? Is it possible that people do it simply because they can? That it's so NewMedia, and the kind of thing that's expected of the Masters of the Intertubes? That our great-grandparents, waiting for the latest word from the Continent to come over by steamship, could never have imagined such a fantastically futuristic form of news delivery? Those don't seem like very good reasons.

So can someone out there offer a defense of liveblogging?

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