Thunderdome liveblog powers through US government shutdown

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The government may have shut down, but Thunderdome was just warming up.

Through the 16 days of the government shutdown, Thunderdome’s news desk provided a constantly-updated live blog (embedded below) to track every major development for readers of Digital First Media properties. The liveblog provided readers with vital, real-time updates and insight on the debt ceiling, the Capitol Hill shooting on Oct. 3, shutdown beards and angry stenographers, among other things.

The effort was spear-headed by one of our most recent additions to the team, politics reporter/producer Amber Phillips, along with help from Patrick Hogan, Jillian Sederholm, Chris Hopkins, Karen Workman and Julie Westfall of the breaking news desk, and some technical help from live channel manager Chris March.

The liveblog was produced with ScribbleLive, the tool Digital First Media properties use for real-time publishing of breaking news liveblogs and chats. The liveblog found an even larger audience outside of Digital First Media through ScribbleLive’s Marketplace. Minnesota Public Radio, Sun Media,, local news sites in Wisconsin and Sioux City and a handful of other media outlets syndicated the content for use on their own websites. It even made it across the pond, spotted on websites in Norway and France. These media sites were able to syndicate our liveblog content for free (we have option to charge a fee for use), and localize it or add their own content to it.

“This is great stuff and a testament to the hard work of the politics and breaking teams and a good model for how to handle these kind of sustained news events in the future,” says Politics Channel Manager Ryan Beckwith.

The liveblog remained ‘open’ throughout the duration of the government shutdown, tallying 105,000 unique visitors, according to our analytics from ScribbleLive. About half of that viewership came from Digital First Media sites, with the other half from syndication. More impressive is the amount of time viewers spent on the page once getting there – an average of 12 minutes per view.

“We didn’t know how long the shutdown would last when we started the liveblog,” says March. “But by maintaining it throughout the shutdown, this allowed Digital First Media sites to always have the latest on their websites for their readers without having to update anything. We took care of keeping the space fresh, relevant and informative so they didn’t have to.”

What did you think of the liveblog, Digital First? What did you appreciate most? What can we do to improve our coverage of national breaking news for local websites? 

Simran Khosla

By Simran Khosla

Simran Khosla is a former Thunderdome intern. During her fall 2013 internship, she was a Graduate Student at NYU Journalism’s Studio 20 program, working to innovate online media. Prior to Thunderdome, Simran interned at various public radio stations, including WBEZ in Chicago. Originally from Bombay, India, Simran lived all over Asia prior to getting an undergraduate degree at Emory University in Atlanta. She likes data, designing, and doodles.

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