If interactivity is one of the four keys to a successful news website, don't we need community management skills? Recently the Online News Association published a study by Max Magee that "attempts to define which skills and intangible characteristics are most important in online newsrooms." More precisely, the study reflects the current assumptions and working experiences of online news managers and producers -- where we are today, not necessarily where we should be.
The study reflects the receding importance of technical expertise -- HTML and Photoshop are still important, of course, but skills generally common to copy editors (multitasking, attention to detail, headline writing, etc.), rose to the top of the list and more geeky skills such as PHP and CSS sank to the bottom. Among people working as producers at newspaper websites, "cultivating online communities" ranked 18th out of 35 skills, with only 52 percent saying it's something they do daily. Among producers at news websites not affiliated with legacy media, that same skill ranks 13th, with 70.7 percent saying it's part of the daily routine.
I've noticed several postings recently on the various journalism job boards reflecting an apparent higher profile for online community leadership. Titles vary. The Army Times is looking for a "Community Conversation Editor," a title that I like, but the "editor" word is a bit imperial.
We're currently calling a similar job "community content coordinator," in which I stumble a bit over the word "content." Maybe "community interaction coordinator" would be better. Noodling on a job description I came up with these components:
- Solicit contributions from the community through the website and other channels.
- Serve as a "Spotter," photographing people at community events and handing out promotional cards.
- Recruit, train and organize volunteer/intern "Spotters."
- Plan Spotter coverage, maintaining a calendar of events to be covered.
- Make presentations to community groups about the newspaper and website.
- Serve as lead "host" for the local blogspace, starting and participating in conversations.
- Recruit, train and organize community "expert" bloggers.
- Moderate and manage online conversations as necessary.
- Work proactively with reporters to help them engage in community interaction.
- Work proactively to identify Web content for print production, in close collaboration with the Editor.
- Support end users as they engage with the website.
Enough to keep anybody busy, and hardly a copy editor role. But what have I left out?