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#wef11 – Panellists share advice on how to build communities

There were lots of nuggets of advice to take away from the community building session at the World Editors Forum in Vienna yesterday, from specific tips offered by panellists to inspirations to be taken from the projects they are involved in.

Some of the tips from three members of the panel have been collected below:

Jim Brady, editor-in-chief of the Journal Register Company

There is a difference between “shallow engagement” and “deep engagement”. He says shallow engagement examples are comments on articles which are not responded to, “you’re not really engaging just giving a platform for them to talk to each other”, user photo contests or sharing tools, which “allow the community to recirculate your journalism, but there’s no direct engagement”.

Deep engagement is about spending real physical time with the community, he said, such as through open newsrooms, hosting of events or curating work of community members. “This gives you feet on the ground”, he said.

But you have to give up some control if you want to work with the community, he warned, and you need them to view you as a partner, and then they will come to site more regularly, link to you more, tell their friends about you and “root for your success”.

Anette Novak, editor-in-chief, Norran

“It is about actions, not just words”, she said. Novak gave several examples of how Norran has been productive in responding to the views of the audience, such as starting a campaign about train service. A resulting poll showed 90 per cent of readers “were really happy about it”, she said. “They really felt we were on their side”.

Much like Brady, she also encouraged opening up the newsroom. Norran runs a project called eEditor, an online chatroom people can use from 6am until the newsroom closes to discuss the news list which is put out to the community to enable them to “co-create with journalists”.

Mark Johnson, community editor, the Economist

Johnson told the conference to think beyond the article, offering the example of month-long festivals the Economist ran which were based on themes of special reports.

He also urged the audience not to feel like they need to change who they are or what they do to fit in to the community, or feel the need to dumb down. “Work out what is special and unique and then decide how you can translate that wherever you want to build community,” he advised.

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