Audience lies at the core of today's journalistic enterprise. I did my graduate degree in the MIT Comparative Media Studies program and the MIT Media Lab's Future of News initiative. I studied how the term "engagement" entered media, as well as the ways in which media companies' audience engagement teams set new standards and practices for our industry. Specifically, I focused on the evolution of the comments section. After interviewing dozens of moderators, I came up with a series of academic conclusions about audience engagement, as well as strategic guidance for newsrooms looking to improve their engagement efforts. You can find more info about that work below. If you'd like to reach me about speaking at an engagement-themed event or consultation work, go here.
This paper traces the new journalistic contenders, new audience behaviors, and new business models that are emerging in participatory news spaces. My thesis situates the the comments section within a broader debate over how news organizations create relationships with audiences. It draws upon my interviews with members of audience engagement and community management teams at news organizations, online comment communities, and comment-based startups.
a Guide for media orgs
In my research, I found that audience engagement teams often struggle to find emotional space for their work, leading to burnout and inefficiency. In this guide, I distill wisdom from moderators into a series of recommendations for media companies as to how to manage the emotional risks of moderation and engagement, including abuse.
This multi-disciplinary conference, hosted at the MIT Media Lab in February 2016, brought together moderators, editors, newsroom execs, researchers and others to brainstorm the future of the comments section and of audience engagement. The hosts were MIT's Future of News Initiative and the Coral Project.