Membership models and newsletters are the new hotness in journalism, right?

Well, for the first time in a long while, I'm putting my time (and hopefully some of your money) where my mouth is, and launching a paid product: yes, it's a membership newsletter about the emerging discipline of audience engagement, and you can sign up right here.

Why am I doing this?

As an industry, we’re starting to revisit some of the key ideas we were working on over a decade ago. We put too many of our traffic eggs in the facebook basket, and we've been badly punished for it. And so, we're working on the ideas that we should have been pursuing while Facebook distracted us.

I recently heard about an American publisher starting to build out forums on their site — something I was working on back in the late 2000s. Everything old is new again.

Surprisingly few of the people who were leading the audience engagement (usually referred to as “community management” back then) efforts at the time are still in the industry. Some, like Joanna Geary, have gone into the platforms. Others have departed for more lucrative fields like PR and marketing, which valued those skills more highly than journalism did. The net result? Much of the expertise the industry needs is gone from the business, just when we need it most.

The journalism world has a terrible record of losing institutional knowledge - look at the fuss last year when The Guardian claimed, incorrectly, that they were launching their first daily news podcast. It was their second - but that knowledge had been lost. With over 15 years of experience working in this space, I believe I’m in a unique position to provide context and analysis for what’s happening now. If I can do that in a compact and useful format, that helps people in their day-to-day work, I hope that will be something people are prepared to pay for. If it is, it will free me up to spend more time researching, and hopefully, starting to produce interviews and other research material that will help this aspect of the industry grow.

And make no mistake - it needs to. In light of the collapse of Facebook traffic over the last year, we're realising that we need to take back control of our relationship with our readers, though a whole range of techniques:

  • Owned and operated communities
  • Comments
  • SEO
  • Social platforms
  • Face to face events
  • Community-centric content

And more.

I want to help.

What Engaged Reading Time is

The proposition is simple. At least twice a week I will send you a newsletter comprising:

  1. A piece of analysis of a recent news story or platform change that could imapct on Audience Engagement work
  2. A round-up of useful links to articles about community management, SEO, analytics and other factors that impact on audience engagement

Think of it, if you like, as a hyperniche B2B publication for the audience engagement world. The model is very clearly inspired by newsletter like Stratechery by Ben Thompson, which delivers one piece of in-depth analysis of the tech world per day. I don't think that's exactly the right model for the audience engagement world, which is why I'm running with a mix of curation and analysis.

I have no expectation that this will ever become my principal source of income - and I would be reluctant to give up my lecturing, training and consultancy work. I enjoy the face-to-face aspects of the work too much. However, the more subscribers I get, the more time I can devote to this.

Like the sound of it?

Then join the Engaged Reading Time founder members, and see where we go with this…