Support 100 years of independent journalism.

5 June 2011updated 17 Jan 2012 7:04am

A liveblog about liveblogging

It is easy to dismiss this new form of journalism -- but it is here to stay.

By Steven Baxter

10.32am Welcome to this morning’s liveblogging liveblog, where I will be updating you on today’s live blogs, as they happen, across the world. I’m not actually in a position to see the blogs themselves — I am relying on updates from wire services and people on Twitter for that — but I can assure you that as soon as anything happens, with regards to live blogs, you will be the first to know. KEEP REFRESHING. KEEP REFRESHING. F5, F5, F5. Actually, let me do that for you. Shall I just set it to “self-refresh every 15.3 seconds” by default, just so you don’t have to worry your pretty little heads about it? Yes. Let’s.

This is going to change at any moment. Something new will pop up. More content. More content. More content. Don’t be fooled by the slow start. Something new will happen. Keep refreshing. Please. We need the numbers. Actually, if you wouldn’t mind, just keep it open in a tab somewhere, and leave it there all day. Could you do that? I’d love it if you could.

10.33am Not much has changed since 10.32am but I thought I’d split this into a couple of entries, so it gives the illusion of being two events, rather than me just sitting here, conveying one event over two entries. I hope that makes sense. Here’s a video of a press conference. This is just like rolling news, but without the interminable Qatar Airways adverts and Adam Boulton: ergo, you’re better off here than there. Let me tell you what’s going on, we’ll be fine.

10.58am Not much has changed since my last entry, but I am wading through some pretty stodgy copy and deciding that you probably won’t want to read it. I am working. See, I’ve done a new entry. Look at me, I’m working! Gather round! Gather round and see the worker at work! There, that’s another bit done. I’ll link to something good in a minute, so you won’t feel like you’re wasting your time. Something is planned to happen at 1.30pm, so I can start building up to that.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

And so on, and so on. I am blogging about liveblogging. Which is only one step down from blogging about blogging or being a blogger. The sense of ouroboros is palpable, isn’t it? But liveblogs — if you want to call them that, and no-one has come up with a better name, much to everyone’s shame — are gradually creeping over news websites. It’s not just because they’re easy ways of getting rather exciting numbers for your site — though I don’t think it’s spectacularly cynical to notice that they are — but they are also proving popular with readers. Why might that be, and are they here to stay?

There’s a whole way of experiencing things by proxy now, via the mediated web and via the hive mind of social network, which we seem to be enjoying more and more. You can just sit and watch the Britain’s Got Talent final, for example, in your living room, with the curtains drawn, with a faint ticking of a mantelpiece clock just audible over David Hasselhof’s whooping delight; or you can immerse yourself in the experience by tweeting “Ooh he looks like a 1960s bass player who’s been put through a mangle, or something”, by reading others’ comments, by looking at a liveblog which collates all the opinion and evidence in one hit.

Liveblogging is the rather more attractive cousin of stuff like sports text commentary, which I’ve done myself in the past, huddled over a laptop at Edgeley Park in near-arctic conditions, typing in fingerless gloves… ah, those were the days. I remember, about a decade ago, being told by someone who ‘knew these things’ that there wasn’t any point in bothering with football text commentary, the primitive form of liveblogging I was doing at the time — that readers weren’t interested and it was all a waste of time. Ah, how foolish he must feel now. (Where is he now, the naysayer? Doing very well for himself, a quick search of Facebook reveals. Where am I, the pioneer, the trailblazer? Off down the JobCentrePlus in a couple of weeks’ time.) Liveblogging is here to stay.

But it’s not just event-driven liveblogging, anchored to a particular occasion, that’s taking place. There are also themed liveblogs reflecting developing stories that are changing all the time with new information coming in, taking place sometimes over days rather than minutes. In that sense, liveblogs represent the experience of having someone sitting opposite you at work who is occasionally watching a rolling news channel, telling you the bits they think you might be interested in. In others, they’re a handy one-stop shop, a way of being able to avoid putting yourself through a mass of unfolding data and having it all parsed for you by someone who’s going to take the time and trouble to try and weed out the muck from the brass. As well as that, the longer-form liveblogs can reflect the development of a story in a way that straightforward reportage cannot.

It’s easy to dismiss this new form of journalism, as all new forms of journalism, or anything, are dismissed. But I think that would be to ignore the fact that people use these things, and get something out of it in return. I suppose it’s a bit of a timesaver, too, having someone else do all that ferreting around for you; as a punter you can just sit back, relax and let some poor hack gaze into a screen all day on your behalf, while you… well, while you gaze into a screen all day yourself, but look at different things. We are all of us gazing at screens, but some lucky folk are getting paid for it.