Blogging the 2006 FIFA World Cup — A guide to blogging sports events
The 2006 Fifa World Cup starts in 2 days, and before things get absolutely crazy here, I want to tell you how I will be covering the event. It’s a month-long event with a lot of things to talk about, so this should be an interesting exercise in learning how to focus on the most important news and managing priorities as things heat up.
A little preview — I’m going to be talking about the different phases this blog will go through with respect to World Cup coverage and the specific goals I will be setting for SoccerLens for each of these phases.
Before we start — While I’ve talked specifically about how SoccerLens will be covering the World Cup, you can easily adapt this advice for your own blogs / sites and choice of sports / public events.
Let’s get started.
World Cup Goals
Here are the goals I set myself for covering the World Cup:
- Cover England‘s progress throughout the World Cup (the team I’m supporting)
- Cover the progress of Manchester United players in the World Cup (the football club I’m supporting)
- Cover important event news
- Cover the big matches (all matches from the 2nd round onwards)
You’ll notice that while restricting myself to one team (and one club) I’ve also set myself some challenging goals (covering event news as well as covering all matches after the group stages). For a single blogger that might seem too much (looks to me at least) but the benefit of setting yourself tough goals is that you tend to push yourself that much harder to do a good job.
On to the 5 phases of the tournament:
Phase 1 — The Buildup
Ideally, you want to setup shop at least a month before the event starts. Having said that, my first post on this blog was on 19th April and because of the need to cover a lot of end season topics (this is a football blog, not just for the World Cup), I had to balance things a bit. Still, I’ve managed to cover the topics that mattered to me the most regarding the World Cup, even if I haven’t done as much as I would have liked.
- To cover the preparations of the team I am supporting (England) as completely as I could.
- To put up my own World Cup Predictions page
If you check out the World Cup posts, I’ve been talking about England and nothing else. Apart from helping me build some momentum it has also helped me stay on top of the news. If I had targeted covering all 32 teams, or even more than one team — it would have been very hard for me to balance the needs of the blog with other areas of my business / life.
Challenge yourself, but don’t take on too much more than you can handle. It’s easier for a team of bloggers, but even then you should make sure that you pick a focused theme and follow that.
Phase 2 — The Early Matches
If you check out the World Cup Schedule, you will see that there are 32 teams playing 48 matches in the group stages. That’s a LOT of news to cover, and it’s obvious that by myself I won’t be able to give them due importance.
- Publish a daily roundup of world cup news
- A daily ‘England News’ roundup
- If possible, a daily Manchester United players’ roundup
- Reviews, News and Previews of England’s matches
This amounts to at least 3 daily posts on the World Cup alone. It’s a tough posting schedule (as I have other blogs and sites to run, plus the World Cup to watch itself), so I’ve made sure that I have extra time during June to live up to these goals. Specifically, I’ve postponed several projects in order to allow myself the time to cover this event properly.
Phase 3 — Keep it Interesting
No matter how good your writing is, covering a sports event ends up sounding like a boring newsreel if you’re not able to keep things interesting.
The key thing here of course is to figure out what exactly you can do to make things interesting.
- Football fans are an excitable bunch, so my focus here would be on creating comment-worthy posts (think strong, controversial opinions)
- Do a daily / regular “today in pictures” type of post in which I put up pictures from the World Cup matches with comments if appropriate. Think of this as a precursor to a picture gallery (which I plan to put up after the World Cup)
- Surprise your readers with something new/unexpected — that is, keep some of the “interesting ideas” under wraps and spring them during the event
I’m sure you can do a lot more — podcasts, a desktop widget that provides live scores off your site (Microsoft), a full-fledged picture gallery, forums, what not. The only restriction I see here is resources. This is after all a blog on a very tight budget, and I’m not a programming expert so most fancy solutions are just that — fancy. Resources also include time, and if I had to manage forums as well (I’m already doing that elsewhere) it would kill me.
Phase 4 — Race to the Finish
As the knockout stages progress and you reach the quarters, semis and the final itself, this is when the interest levels really, really heat up. This is also when you have more time to focus on the matches as they are going to be much fewer in number. It’s all about riding the wave by this point, because as long as you’re writing and covering what your regular readers expect you to cover you will do fine.
However, sometimes ‘fine’ isn’t enough :-). In such a case I’ve added a few ‘extras’ in the goals for this section.
- Cover every single match (preview and review) from the quarter finals onwards
- Introduce one of my ‘surprises’ at this stage (of course that means having a surprise to introduce — but the timeline gives me some leeway to put together something relevant and interesting)
- Special features for the semi-finals and the final, including squad selections, team strategies and match tactics
- Cover team news daily for the last four teams (until they are knocked out, that is)
- Do a special edition report for the final (a .pdf) that includes team news, past statistics, and tons of other stuff that I’d like to keep a secret. In short, go overboard by the time the semis and the finals are there. Push this report (or package) like crazy on all announcement channels (blog, newsletter, forums, etc)
There is little you have to do at this stage to generate interest as this is a time when the “traffic wave” is rising by itself. It’s important however it maintain focus, spice things up a bit and stay on course.
Phase 5 — Cleaning Up
“Cleaning up” for me involves closing the event with a flourish (summary, review, etc) and prepping your blog to move forward.
- Review the event — highlights, summary, progress of the teams and the players I was supporting, etc.
- Provide statistics for the World Cup
- A roundup of the best images from the event
- Another one of those surprises
- Setup a World Cup archives section for future reference
- Once you’ve cleaned up, move on
Don’t leave things hanging — review it, collect your posts into an archive, put together some “end-of-the-event” specials and most importantly, reorient yourself and your blog towards the future. My focus for Soccerlens has always been to cover football news that is limited to a few teams / regions. This, while helping me keep my sanity, also helps me reorient myself — I know very well what is up next for my blog (in this case, the transfer season).
Please note that there are a lot of specifics that I’ve had to omit from this list, mainly for the reason that I want to keep them under wraps until things are certain and until I announce them on the blog itself.
Making this list was quite tough because from the offset I knew that I would be missing out on a lot in order to cover the few important things that I wanted to cover. It shows that even in a highly niche event such as the 2006 World Cup, you can’t do everything (especially if you have to blog it as it happens).
It comes down to how much time you can devote to covering the event, and how well you know your audience (and what they would want).
But more importantly, it is about setting specific goals for yourself and then following up on them. Without these two things, you might end up halfway through the event wondering where the hell you wanted to go.
Want to blog about the World Cup? Contact me here.