Once upon a time, election results seemed to happen almost in slow motion, and news media outlets waited for counted and confirmed votes before reporting on results. Starting with the dawn of the digital age, though, competition to get the scoop on voting results has prompted a fiercer, faster election coverage beat – making speed as important as accuracy in many cases. Since the 2000 election debacle in the United States, during which no winner was declared for more than a month, up-to-the-second election coverage has become not just a hot topic but essential for remaining competitive in the news landscape.
Technologically speaking, a lot has changed since 2000, and media companies focus considerable resources on delivering real-time election updates to their readers. And reader appetite for news in general equals more news more often – extending to election coverage. At the same time, journalists and the platforms they work for are always looking for an edge: how can they earn reader trust and deliver on readers’ increasingly time-sensitive demands for more?
In an era of unparalleled distrust in politics and visible divisiveness, it isn’t always about reporting results first – but reporting with context. But speed and context aren’t mutually exclusive.
In the coming weeks, the 2022 US midterm elections draw near, and Brazil’s runoff vote for president is even sooner. In both cases, voter polling has proven unreliable. In Brazil, current president Jair Bolsonaro was supposedly heading for a major loss but hung on to end up in a face-off with former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Polls ahead of the October 31 runoff claim that Lula leads Bolsonaro by at least seven points. But how reliable are these numbers?
Similarly, in the United States, polls have been a teeter-totter of sorts, first predicting that one indicator, such as a stronger-than-expected economy, will tip the midterms in the Democrats’ favor, while other or later polls spin the story to report that the GOP will take control because of American worries about the economy. But as US President Joe Biden himself stated: “Back and forth, with them ahead, us ahead, them ahead, back and forth. The polls have been all over the place. I think that we’re going to see one more shift back to our side in the closing days.”
Polls are notoriously tricky and often very wrong. The content they create needs to scoop or even supersede the polls in its importance: what kind of instant insight or discussion can such journalists share to augment the back-and-forth tug-of-war initiated by frequently misleading polls? How can journalists provide context for the lead-up to the vote and its eventual results?
The idea of using live-blogging technology to create a unique, standalone approach to election coverage isn’t new. The Live Center live-blogging platform was used as long ago as 2017 by Dagens Næringsliv in Norway’s 2017 parliamentary elections and in 2018 by Focus-WTV to cover provincial, municipal, and district elections.
In 2019, the Directorate for Campaigns of the European parliament selected Live Center to cover European parliament elections, which span 28 member states and more than 400 million eligible voters. During the campaign, 24 unique blogs were created, managed by more than 30 editors and customized by local language.
Apart from having a great deal of editorial control, multimedia integrations and real-time updateability, live blogging is a good way to differentiate content and boost the level of quality and thus credibility of what’s being published. This is how Archant Media used Live Center in their live coverage of the 2019 UK General Election, which led to an increase in reader engagement and marked an increase in traffic to their sites via their live-blogging efforts.
Are you ready to go real time with quality election coverage?