Media management is a difficult job. Business models, ways to engage the community, tech solutions, uses of data… everything is constantly changing. “Community Powered Journalism”, a new book by Professor Mark L. Hunter and CEO of KLJD Consulting Kevin Davis, seeks to provide a manual for independent, community driven publishers in this new media age.

The idea of community powered journalism has been gaining pace in recent years. Outlets like Texas Tribune or Daily Maverick have served as inspirations for publishers around the world. Covid and the creator economy boom accelerated adoption of reader revenue, as well as innovation on the original model

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This global trend makes the gap in literature on the matter all the more surprising. Indeed, while a number of guides and articles have been written on the matter (most notably a helpful online guide from Membership Puzzle Project), the theme was asking for a comprehensive deep-dive.

“Community Powered Journalism” by Hunter and Davis is that towering piece of work the sector needed. Drawing upon the extensive experience of both authors, it elegantly balances big picture and specific tools. It’s the kind of book where you can read a bit and immediately start implementing.

A practical guide to community media management

The book starts with the idea of symbiosis. Media don’t exist in a vacuum and overlook deeper relations with readers at their own peril. At its core, that means flipping the question we hear so often, namely “how to save media?”.

Quote: “The challenge is not to “save” newspapers, or public radio, or any other media that is struggling for survival, if we are saving them mainly for our own sakes. The issue shifts if we ask first, “Who are we saving them for?”

Importantly, the book quickly moves from theory and big picture strategy to specific insights and solutions. This means that media managers come out with specific guidelines on such issues as: mapping customer journeys, acquisition and retention, or building third-party revenue streams.

The book captures learnings from other industries, such as Lego or a guitar-making company – something that is sorely needed in media which too often retreats into itself and becomes insular in its thinking. There is also a helpful appendix with deep dives on technical topics such as payment systems, technology stacks for news publishers, or email automation.

The upshot: “Community Powered Journalism” provides an important step forward into a largely vacant space. With the proliferation of membership models worldwide, it would be great to see further efforts looking into regional specificities and build upon the growing list of case studies to extract insights.

Certainly, the work by Hunter and Davis establishes a strong basis and standards for this space.

Editor’s note: The author of this review is a lecturer at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga together with both Hunter and Davis, where they teach as part of the Future of Media Management programme.

“Community-Powered Journalism” can be found here for the price of 26 euros in print and 10 euros in digital format.

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