Community and Audience Development

A news nonprofit can certainly build traffic by consistently publishing great, relevant coverage over time — but turning that traffic into what one could loosely call a “population of engaged regulars” is a strategic and capacity issue all its own.

Staff Capacity

Outreach, marketing, engagement and donor development require staff with specific skills and expertise that are tangential to journalism at best. Yet success in any of these activities is critical. The news has to reach the people who need it — and the news organization needs the support of the people who value its work.

News nonprofits need to invest time and money to build the staff capacity necessary for community and audience development. Done right, this is an investment that pays for itself and makes much more possible in the process.

(Re)Discovering Disrupted Demographics

The modern news audience is tough to reach and tougher still to keep. The days of monopolies on attention are over. The Internet has turned viewers into producers and broadcasters, and mass media have experienced a steady erosion of audience attention ever since.

In this environment, nonprofit news organizations may find the prospect of competing with Angry Birds both disheartening and surreal. The game soared past one billion downloads way back in May 2012. A billion! If only journalists had an app like that.

The good tidings for news organizations is that there are still mass audiences out there for quality public-interest information. A major metro-newspaper’s daily circulation can reach the hundreds of thousands, even in a time of decline for print. How can online news nonprofits tap into that persistent public interest?

Building a New, Engaged Audience

It could be that the challenge for any news outlet is to rediscover who their audience communities are made up of, find out what inspires them, and then re-aggregate them around journalism’s public-service mission.

The following articles and guide entries explore how a news organization establishes its identity before the public, how it builds communities, how it provides engagement opportunities with the issues and the stories, and how it inspires members and donors.


  • Whitepaper: Audience Development and Distribution Strategies. “It’s easy for journalists to take for granted the reach and influence that their former employers offered. When you unbundle content from mass distribution channels, you are left in the difficult position of making sure that audience will come to what you build.”