Community management exists in nearly every aspect of life. Ok, so that might be a slight exaggeration but that is certainly what it feels like as I scramble around the web looking for a definition to offer you my dearest reader. Even Wikipedia, itself an excellent example of why community management plays such an important role in modern-day society, can’t help me with something refined:
Community management or common-pool resource management is the management of a common resource or issue by a community through the collective action of volunteers and stakeholders. The resource managed can be either material or informational. Examples include the management of common grazing and water rights, fisheries and open source software. In the case of physical resources, community management strategies are frequently employed to avoid the tragedy of the commons and to encourage sustainability.
FISHERIES! Bloomin’ eck, we could be in trouble here I thought, having been given this task as part of our course at City. Thankfully our discussions, debates and deliberations about community management are confined to the world of journalism. And that is where things get interesting.
The first important thing to establish is to dismiss the notion that a newspaper, a website or blog has one all-inclusive community. They don’t. Community management is about the niches, the different needs of your community. So, for example, despite all those overused stereotypes, the Daily Telegraph’s community is not people who vote Conservative and are big fans of the Royal Family (not the TV show) and Cricket. As the Guardian’s Meg Pickard said in a lecture at City recently “People having things in common is not necessarily a community”.
No, newspapers have many small communities all focused on different aspects of their paper and website, all of which need managing. And so to have a strong community following in journalism you must work on a niche basis thinking about the differing needs of your readers.
This brings me nicely onto my next point which is that your readers and audience are not your community. As Adam Tinworth summarised so helpfully “Audiences read, communities engage and therefore need managing”.
Social media is of course a factor in terms of community management and journalism but do not be fooled into thinking that the comments you may get on a link on Facebook is the crazy new age of communities. We have always debated the news, we have always argued about the English football team it is just we have different tools for discussion these days. And these tools play an increasingly significant role in both the growth and management of communities within journalism.
So in summary it is all about engagement and interaction. Analysing articles, criticising comment pieces and picking apart podcasts. This is just some of what makes a community in journalism and hopefully with this blog we will be able to discuss and highlight some specific examples of communities and how they are managed. But where’s the definition I hear you all cry. Well, truth is, we’re not quite sure yet but with your help we hope to work that one out.