Community management in journalism and beyond…

Adam Tinworth is Editorial Development Manager for Reed Business Information and his Twitter profile describes him as “Journalist, blogger, good egg”. He blogs here…

Adam Tinworth

How do you define community management?

It’s the skill of facilitating discussion and sharing between a group of people, to help them develop the relationships that create a community.

What role do you feel it plays in journalism today both in print and online?

In print, we called them letters or readers editors. But there’s not much interaction inherent in print, so they didn’t play a big role until the advent of the Internet. Now, community management involves making sure that the interactions on the website go well, and meet the needs of the community. It involves reaching out to members of the community on other sites, if that’s where they’re interacting, and making sure that the community’s concerns are reflected in the print product, too.

We call our community managers “community editors”. That reflects the fact that, while they’re the community management specialists, every journalist has some responsibility for it. But this is nothing news – we just used to call I working the beat, or maintaining contacts. The only difference is that “the beat” can also publish now, and often choose to. That changes the dynamic. Read the rest of this entry »


The latest assignment for my Journalism and Society module (as part of my newspaper journalism masters) posed an important question: Does widespread access to different forms of media enhance democracy in media?

I started to think about this blog, and whether having so many online communities, and so many different ways in which communities can be form (blogs, Facebook, forums etc) be anything but a good thing.

Voices are being heard, that sometimes may have remained silent. Movements are being created across the web by the strokes on a keypad. And to the people themselves, it seems to matter greatly having a platform to be heard. Read the rest of this entry »

A recently released report by Yahoo! Research entitled ‘Who Says What to Whom on Twitter’ (which we found via Hypebot, thanks) includes some impressive revelations, especially in terms of community management.

Not least, the stat that says 0.05% of tweeters generate around 50% of all Twitter action shows that the micro-blogging site is less of a social forum than perhaps some would like to think – there clearly is a heirarchy in place. A heiracrchy not so far away from traditional top-down broadcast models.

In terms of community management, the guys (and girls) at Yahoo! Research have pointed to Lasswell’s two step flow theory (‘What what?’ I hear you say. The only reason I know this stuff is because I’m a disgruntled media studies graduate. Bare with me) to explain the way information is transmitted via Twitter. Read the rest of this entry »

I read an interesting tweet today from Thomas Knoll, @thomasknoll, who describes himself as a community architect. He was speaking at a conference in America and at the same encouraging his audience (as well as the wider web) to use the hash tag #octribe engage in discussion on Twitter during his speech “Community management doesn’t work. What does?”
He wrote:

“We cannot manage a communities [sic] attention, attitude, involvement, tone, or culture. We CAN architect spaces and design experiences #octribe.” Read the rest of this entry »

Listening again to the community management panel at SXSW (that I posted about here), and trying to relate any of it to my own practice as a journalist, one thing stood out. Reddit community manager Erik Martin‘s comments criticisizing writers within mainstream media organisations who don’t go into comment threads and involve themselves within the debate got me thinking.

Martin claimed that if writers weren’t replying to comments and changing stories as a result of remarks made within these threads, then there was very little having them at all.

As someone who has worked in several newsrooms of local newspapers, I find this criticizm a little simplistic. Agreed, most of the websites of such organisations are behind the times, and I doubt many of them even employ a community manager (rather a techy online person to deal with all things web-based), but critics need to be fair to the journalists themselves. Read the rest of this entry »

While Tom’s post earlier this week pointed to the i paper‘s successful and clever rehashing of an old newspaper convention, I want to look at something that happened this week, which, on the flip-side, shows how badly this sort of thing can go as well.

Yesterday, The Sun newspaper published an article in which they named murder suspect Chris Halliwell‘s children, including his 12-year-old son. I’m not going to meditate on the ethics or legal ramifications of the paper’s actions, but instead  concentrate on what happened among The Sun‘s ‘community’ following the article’s publishing.

On the paper’s Facebook fan page, which users must ‘like’ before they can post, a backlash erupted, full of readers angered by the naming of Halliwell’s family. Many seemed genuinely disgusted, and most demanded an apology from the paper. Read the rest of this entry »

In these days of multimedia journalism it is easy to forget that there are other ways of connecting with your readers other than via Twitter. Take newspapers for example. For years and years the format by which they interacted with readers and showed an engagement with their communities was via a letters page.

You know the drill – irate people writing in about an oh-so-biased comment piece, a complimentary old dear saying how much she loved the pictures on page 5 or some very smug gentleman with a curt correspondence about a spelling mistake in the nib on page 37. No matter what they were about, their publication and subsequent responses gave newspapers a chance to a) show they actually had people paying attention to what they were doing and b) that they listened to these people.

It is probably the most simple and traditional form of community management. Read the rest of this entry »