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The rise of the conveners

“As the internet becomes more saturated and noisy, consumers are searching for real, authentic human conversation that is more engaging than today’s passive media model.”

In 2019, the media power dynamic will shift dramatically — from the establishment led by traditional communicators (journalists) toward communities led by new conveners (podcast hosts, Facebook group administrators, newsletter writers, and all kinds of personalities).

As the internet becomes more saturated and noisy, consumers are searching for real, authentic human conversation that is more engaging than today’s passive media model. They’re sick of just listening, reading, and watching. They want to be speaking, collaborating, and taking action.

As a result, hyper-niche communities are popping up everywhere. These digital and physical groups of people who gather around similar beliefs or interests have become particularly potent in the political space. Many people would point to Pod Save America as one of the noisiest niche communities of the last few years. This micro-community of millions of progressive change-makers is built around former White House staffers turned podcast hosts. But conservative personalities were way ahead of the curve on this trend: People like Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart saw the power of convening years ago and began building their collectives over the past decade. In 2019, micro-communities will go mainstream.

These communities — whether they center on formats like podcasts, Facebook Groups or newsletters — close the gap between the “voice” of information (in this case, the hosts, newsletter writers, founders, group admins, and moderators) and the audience, the people who act on information.

While journalists and others with large social followings will still have important megaphones, the biggest difference we’ll see in 2019 will be a surge of conveners who start conversations with no association with a news organization and who don’t consider themselves a journalist or reporter of any kind. They’re just themselves, and that’s what has created such a strong community around them. The commentator, regardless of their platform or pedigree, has become the convener.

Another trend to watch will be the rise of a new town square, built by conveners, that serves as a gathering place for people starved for real conversation that goes beyond a social media post. That town square includes platforms that have often been neglected by the mainstream media like LinkedIn (for business leaders), Patreon (for audio and video creators), and VSCO (for budding photographers).

Of course, there are downsides to these smaller communities. They are likely centered around the reinforcement of a specific worldview, and in an increasingly polarized landscape filled with “fake news,” this can be problematic.

But it’s possible that traditional media, which long neglected the power of authenticity and avoided two-way communication with its readers, is what pushed the audience into these communities. Perhaps the most radical difference people see between the media and these micro-community creators is the conveners’ ability to bring passionate and earnest people into community with each other.

Callie Schweitzer is the founder and CEO of CSCH, a creative strategy firm.

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