An incomplete list of my favorites

I like to read a lot. This is a completely incomplete list of the books I’ve liked-to-loved that I would recommend you read during these quaran-times. You will notice some descriptions are better than others. I got a little tired and so I phoned a few in. My list, my rules.

  1. Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine: This is not a recommendation for parents (though this is technically YA). …


The 💰 edition

Sorry to depress you, but we have to talk about social media salaries. Rachel Karten, author of the Substack Link In Bio, sent out a survey several weeks ago asking social media professionals at all levels, in all industries, to self-report salaries, identities, tenure, etc. The entire spreadsheet is worth looking at, but last week, she released a TL;DR version of the survey results, complete with graphs and a nice underlying sense of existential despair. And so my first of three things is this one very big thing.

1️⃣ The TL;DR: Social media professionals are underpaid and undervalued. People who…


Instagram is testing links for *everyone* 👀

There was a lot to choose from this week! New Instagram features on the horizon, a guide to virtual programming, and some very legit questions about why the NY BOE decided to be cute during a tense mayoral election. Let us start!

1️⃣ File this under the “FINALLY” category — just let people share links if they want to share links! “Link in bio” is tedious, and I’m all for a tool that makes it easier for the non-influencer to promote their work or what they’re reading. I’m sure there are pitfalls to this strategy (misinfo, spam, etc) but overall…


The “OOO” edition 🌴

I am currently on a river, writing to you from the past and into the future thanks to the handy “schedule this post for later” feature. Forgive me if anything major has happened in the audience development world between July 2 and today. I am blissfully unaware and off the grid!

1️⃣ New feature alert: “Exclusive Stories” are being tested as Instagram’s version of member-only content. Makes sense that they’re looking for fast-follow ways to help creators monetize on their own content, instead of helping them earn affiliate revenue on selling products. Per TechCrunch:

“The Stories cannot be screenshot, either…


An amazing tomato strategy, plus two other things

Okay, the first thing is from a while ago but it absolutely DELIGHTED me and it also allows me to make a pun. Here we go:

1️⃣ How did we not realize that the key to audience growth was actual growth? I loved reading about Alex Groves’s “Garden Party” newsletter, an eight-week email course about growing t🍅mat🍅es. So specific, so useful, so on-brand. It’s any growth-minded person’s dream, on many levels! (Alt puns: You say tomato, I say audience development at its finest; good things stem from focused newsletters; I heard this through the (tomato) vine…)

2️⃣ One of the…


Yes, let’s talk about email. But also, two other things.

Back at you with more of my favorite reading on audience. Guess what? Everything you read about content is secretly (or blatantly) about audience. That is your free lesson! Speaking of free content…

1️⃣ “Everything is copy” was nice as a Nora Ephron slogan; “everything is content” feels a little bit more exhausting. When every tweet is a moneymaking opportunity, you have to go the extra mile to own your ideas, lest someone steal them from you and actually earn on that idea. I feel tired by it all. If you work in a newsroom where there’s a constant refrain…


Every(ish) week: three things and a tweet

Audience development is more than just writing social copy. (Read that sentence as many times as you need).

For others working in the field, trying to balance all of the channels, strategies, and platforms that make up the world of audience, I’m going to share things I’m reading and enjoying that helps me understand where this industry is and where it’s going.

Would love to hear from you if you’re reading something good! Hopefully will write weekly. Wish the name was better. Anyway!

1️⃣ I love the On Brand email from The Atlantic. I thought this nugget on “what is…


Find Your Reader

To foster community and build audience, use discussion prompts

Photo: SDI Productions / Getty Images

As audience editors, we’re not interested in likes or retweets as measures of success — we’re much more interested in the comment section. Though typically, a writer should “never read the comments,” the rule doesn’t apply when a writer specifically solicits responses, engagement, and ideas through discussion prompts.

Discussion prompts are creative ways to build community and encourage growth as a creator. Readers seek a community online, and though they want to read, they also want to engage. They want to discuss what they’ve learned with you, the author, or with fellow readers. They want to get to know you…


Find Your Reader

Your reader gave you the keys to their inbox. Don’t just barge in there without a plan.

A laptop open and facing right with little envelopes flying out.
A laptop open and facing right with little envelopes flying out.
Image: imran kadir photography/Getty Images

In audience development, we talk a lot about “meeting the reader where they are.” That means that it’s on you, the creator, to find out where your audience spends a lot of their time (Twitter? Instagram? Scrolling their inbox?) and find creative ways to get your content into those spaces. And (almost) every reader spends a lot of time reading email.

I love email as an audience building tool for the same reasons I love push notifications — we know that people are glued to their phones, so sending messages directly to your reader’s device makes it a lot more…


You know what felt very weird? Walking across Second Avenue in Manhattan, in the middle of a workday.

Normally, that street is thick with cars, yellow cabs, swaying buses. To successfully cross you’d better at least be at the crosswalk (though no need to wait for a red light), and if you want to just go rogue and cross in the middle, you’re expected to behave like Frogger.

But in March 2020, you could cross the major street easily, lazily, at your own pace.

I was headed to CVS to see if they had restocked antibacterial hand soap. I wore…

Samantha Zabell

Audience Development at Medium / Previously: Time Inc., Real Simple, childhood

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