What “engagement” means to TBD.com

The staff at TBD.com, the D.C. news startup that launched in August, is about 40 people. Six of them have community engagement as their primary function. Four are community hosts. One is a social media producer. And one is their boss, Steve Buttry, the director of community engagement.

(Lots of folks have written about TBD, including The Washington Post, The Nieman Journalism Lab, the American Journalism Review and Newsonomics. And if you missed their coverage of the Discovery Channel gunman, check it out.)

I got a chance to talk to Steve about TBD, audiences and what the heck engagement actually means. It’s a word that, as my colleague David Cohn likes to say, means everything and nothing. So my question on this day is, what does it mean to Steve, and to TBD. I figured he’d have an opinion, since the word is in his freakin’ job title.

He says engagement comes down to two-way communication, along with a feeling of affiliation. When a media company is engaged with its community, that’s a meaningful relationship — one that doesn’t involve a “we know what’s good for you” gatekeeper’s attitude. It’s reciprocal, and valued.

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