A Worrying Appropriation of the Term 'Community Media'

This popped into my news feed:

Forget social networks – the future is community media, says the boss of Disciple Media


Benji Vaughan, founder and chief executive of Disciple Media says the following:

“We feel like we and a few other companies are creating a new category that’s appearing between owned media and social media,” he tells me. “We’re calling it community media.”

Ths company appears to have reduced the complex concept of ‘community media’ to an app which “…enables brands to advertise to dedicated consumers focused on their products.”

Certainly, this company appears to be trying to develop an app for ‘communities-of-interest’ to be marketed to. However, this is by no means an implementation of what we know as community media - a term that has been in use for 30+ years and is recognised by institutions such as the Council of Europe and the United Nations.

It is of concern that Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, has an app created by this company which hopes to brand the use of its app as ‘community media’.


I would follow this up on the basis that “Community Media” already has a recognised meaning. Advertising Standards Agency, Press Complaints, editor of the article even?

There is strong precedence for misappropriating a known phrase that has a specific meaning. Perhaps it is something the CMA as a body can send a couple of robust responses to the appropriate people (such as Matt Hancock, etc), that will educate them and warn them off the misappropriation.

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Thanks @SamHunt.- I’m not sure if there is much of a case for ownership of the term ‘community media’. It’s not trademarked or anything. But certainly it is used, for example, by UNESCO:

I’ll look into contacting Matt Hancock at least on this matter.

I’ve been looking at jobs over the last few months, and this term is very common within digital marketing businesses, and relates to how brands or organisations increasingly manage and support their customers and stakeholders using online networks and platforms.

This has been around for a long time, especially via chatgroups, forums and other social media networking platforms. The main impetus is communities of interest and distributed production/development communities.

It has also been brought into the political sphere, and was most clearly seen in the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign in 2016, and will no doubt be the basis of many of the 2020 campaigns.

There is a lot that we can learn from these approaches. The fundamental difference is that there is no longer an expectation that organisations can be run from the center with strong executive managers who determine policy, and then cascade that down through the organisation to the foot soldiers who carry out the activities and are measured and assessed by their performance.

What this model suggests, is that orgnaisations now have to engage people who are willing to contribute based on their shared values and goals, and that they have a direct say in the way the product or organistion is developed and it undertakes its work.

Activists and producers are dispersed and therefore need to be supported across different platforms in order to keep activity levels up, and ensuring that goals are acheived.

This is a very different mindset that has a different view of the end-user or contributor, which recognises their contribution, rather than telling people what to thinkg, say or do.

I think we should be reaching out to these new forms of community development practice, learning from them, and applying these techniques for our own aims and with our own values.

Broadcasting is a great model of media deliery, but it is diminishing in its importance, and community media has to transform the expectations of the public to recognise why this is a different approach is importnatn and what we can learn from it.


Muzo Music before 2014…


Interesting post this, I wonder what they are up to??

I’m on here by virtue of my being podcaster - thanks to Rob Watson for drawing it to my attention - so I won’t claim to be an expert on community media (perhaps I have misused the term myself), however the terms ‘community’ and ‘community development’ (my particular background) are also often appropriated and colonised. My personal view is that a fairly zero tolerance approach, though courteous, should be adopted when it happens

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@Llannerch good to have you with us, and the wider the range of perspectives and views is where we will find the forward-looking threads for development. There is a lot of change that has taken place that has resulted in what we now call social media, that is based on principles of community development, though perhaps these might be better called co-development. For example, hacking groups and activists groups that have given rise to Twitter.

@billbest pointed me in the direction of an excellent set of podcasts that discuss alternative media activism, both as a political activity, and as a technical development activity.

In the episode Software Eats the World, its fascinating to hear about the origins of Twitter and the threads of alternative politics came togehter with the emerging information and communication shift that took place at the end of the 20th Century. I never knew that Twitter came out of the hacks around SMS, and was a combined development of Smart Mobs and Micro Blogging.

The later development of Twitter was driven, according to the podcast, by the needs and interests of the community of users and hackers.

It will probably be a useful exercise at some point to list and identify all of the different ways that the word community is used, and what it implies in different circumstances.

Community development in urban regeneration as you discuss in your podcasts is vastly different than the form of community development that is associated with a community of posters of content to Wikipedia, but who is to say that each use of the term community is valid or not?

I’m sure this will make a very good podcast discussion at some point.


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A point of interest, @Rob-Watson, is that RealNetworks which was responsible for RealMedia, RealPlayer, RealAudio and so on began life as Progressive Networks - from Wikipedia:

The original goal of the company was to provide a distribution channel for politically progressive content. It evolved into a technology venture to leverage the Internet as an alternative distribution medium for audio broadcasts. Progressive Networks became RealNetworks in September 1997.

Both of these stories illustrate that efforts by well-meaning hacktivists can and have been appropriated and assimilated into wider mainstream technological culture to eventually become exploited by profit-seeking enterprises.

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