ByTheMinute aims to offer alternative to live blogs

Tiger Woods hits his second shot on the 15th hole during the first round of the 2013 Masters. The event was the first Bytheminute reported on. Picture: Harry How/Getty

Tiger Woods hits his second shot on the 15th hole during the first round of the 2013 Masters. The event was the first Bytheminute reported on. Picture: Harry How/Getty

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After years spent reporting on major golf events around the world, Lawrence Donegan found himself watching the 2013 Masters tournament in Augusta from home.

Keen to keep close tabs on the action, he, like many armchair fans, began scouring social media for live updates.

Donegan, a former golf correspondent for The Guardian, grew up in Stirling and is now based in San Francisco. Picture: Contributed

Donegan, a former golf correspondent for The Guardian, grew up in Stirling and is now based in San Francisco. Picture: Contributed

“It was a frustrating, information free, experience,” he told The Scotsman. “The problem was people just kept tweeting their emotions.

“I wanted to read people’s internal experience, but more than that I wanted information. So I set up a Twitter account, ByTheMinSport, and started live tweeting the entire event, eight hours a day.

“Within two days, I had 4000 followers - with retweets from the likes of Judy Murray, Richmond Osmond and Gary Lineker.”

Donegan, a former golf correspondent for The Guardian and The Scotsman, knew he was on to something.

Four years later, ByTheMinute has grown to become a free live blogging platform open to contributors around the world, covering all manner of events - from the final episode of University Challenge to US presidential press conferences.

The site is open to all and relies on fans posting in “real time”.

“It’s live, it’s real and it’s real time,” Donegan said. “While the big players are forcing users to live with social feeds built by algorithm, we still believe in the power of speed and real time.

“We cover both ends of the user experience - we offer writers the chance to speak to an audience in their own unique voice, and we offer readers a fast, funny commentary of countless live events - be it news or sport or culture. We also offer our most productive writers a chance to own part of the company.”

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The need to create a platform, rather than rely on third party social media, quickly became apparent.

“As crazy as this sounds, one of the biggest problems we had in the early days was that Twitter had a tweet limit,” he added.

“If you tweeted more than 50 times in an hour they’d suspend your feed. By the end of 2015 we had over 100 different Twitter feeds and hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers, but we took the decision to build our own real time platform for curating live coverage of sport, news and culture.

“We are constantly iterating the platform - in the last couple of months we’ve launched a live chat function as well as developing our own podcast platform.”

Donegan, who grew up in Stirling and is now based in San Francisco, oversees a team of administrators based mainly in the UK.

“I’m back home in Scotland a couple of times a year and as ByTheMinute develops further that will probably increase,” he added.

“I consider us to be a Scottish company. I’m not sure I see the value in having a physical office space - but if we decide one day to put a roof over our head I’d imagine that would be in Scotland.”

ByTheMinute has attracted more than 1,000 contributors and is steadily growing its web traffic. Donegan admits there is room for growth.

“This month we’re looking at 120,000 uniques and 500,000 page views - Facebook isn’t quaking in its boots.”

“But we are proud of the fact that we have earned every user we have got and that our audience is growing organically.

Unlike some other veteran journalists, Donegan does not fear social media and believes it can play a positive role in newsgathering.

“The “real time” element of social media, I love,” he said. But I think there is a definite role for legacy media outlets in curating and making sense from the chaos of the social media landscape. The way I see it ByTheMinute is uniquely placed to carry out both roles.”

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