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A more sincere definition of “community”

“Far too many media companies are pivoting to ‘community’ — creating chatty email newsletters, opening Slack channels or ‘members-only’ webinars, and offering free t-shirts or tote bags. These are more branding than community; the value proposition is weak.”

In this environment, the challenge is on publishers to deliver more than (simply) terrific individual stories — to escape what Harvard Business School professor Bharat Anand has called “the content trap” — by identifying and strengthening connections with and between users/readers.

The issue I see is that far too many media companies, lured by hopes of a steady, reliable revenue source from subscriptions, are pivoting to “community” — creating chatty email newsletters, opening Slack channels or “members-only” webinars, and offering free t-shirts or tote bags. These are more branding than community; the value proposition is weak.

In 2019, I think we’ll see successful media companies get much more reflective about why their audiences read them (or why they don’t). What do these many, varied, and highly intimate interactions (clicks) say about the hopes, dreams, and fears of the human beings behind them? How can these insights drive deeper, stronger connections?

It should be that better insights lead to a broader, richer array of options for consumers. The New York Times has done this with Cooking and Running — two examples from my own media diet that enrich my life, make it easier, more joyful. That’s connection.

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