A recent survey asked managing editors of community newspapers how important audience engagement has become in journalism, and the overwhelming answer seems to be that it is becoming increasingly vital - but they aren't sure just how to get it done. 

While many of the respondents claim that their processes need to become more social and collaborative, they don't seem to want to experiment with many of the social media tools available that can help them achieve this goal. A substantial 45 percent of them say that they don't even interact with their audiences in the comment sections of their websites! 

Although digital distribution of news had created a deep data pool in which editors can monitor audience activity, only about half of them use analytics when deciding what topics they should cover. This practice is at odds with the stated claims in the survey that listening to their audience is key to their survival. 

While over three quarters (76 percent) of the editors declared that they invite their audiences to contribute their own stories, only the larger circulation organizations seem to incorporate user-generated content into their publications. 

With resource constraints and declining budgets, this is becoming a catch-22 situation. Without more audience engagement, these media outlets may see declining numbers. But without the resources to adequately incorporate analytics, user-generated content and direct interaction, they may not be able to mount the effort.