The Aud Dev Digest / August 3, 2021

I have a lot of trouble acknowledging it’s actually August

Samantha Zabell
3 min readAug 3, 2021

Hi! It’s August. I personally don’t necessarily believe it’s August, but every trusted robot in my life (Siri, Alexa, the magical anchorperson behind AccuWeather) tells me it’s August. I will mull on it, and decide whether or not I choose to pursue this line of thinking.

In the meantime: a few thoughts on Clubhouse, an important discussion about accessibility, and a great example of smart, useful audience work during a local crisis.

1️⃣ Clubhouse 😬 maybe kept itself in beta for too long. Long enough that major competitors developed their own live audio features, making Clubhouse less of a must-download and more of a “wait, what’s this app on my phone again?” Then again, maybe it just belongs in a different market. Arielle Pardes at Wired writes:

Clubhouse is still growing in some markets, particularly outside of the United States. In June, the app had 7.7 million new downloads, 5.8 million of which came from India. International growth was a key part of Clubhouse’s latest fundraising, during which investors valued the app at $4 billion. Still, as user growth in the US slowed, some have questioned whether the app can live up to its valuation.

Are you still tuning in?

2️⃣ Lack of accessibility and inclusivity on social networks continues to be a major problem. Even with alt-text and image descriptions in Instagram captions, Kait Sanchez at The Verge writes that the needs of blind or low-vision audiences are clearly not being met, and adding alt-text with proper context becomes an afterthought. After all, “Social media accessibility is a group effort. People have to know about the features, understand what they are, and actually remember to use them. A platform can have a hundred accessibility options, but without buy-in from every user, people are still left out.

What can newsrooms do about the portion of their audience being actively excluded by the technology that same newsroom uses to reach their audience? And for those who assume that people who are blind or have low-vision are not interested in visual media platforms, I’ll share this quote from Danielle McCann, the social media coordinator for the National Federation of the Blind:

When culture is molded on social networks, it sucks to lose out on a shared social language because you can’t see the images everyone is talking about.

Think on that.

3️⃣ Have read about this coverage in bits and pieces, but loved reading a full piece from Better News on how the Dallas Morning News team used Instagram to deliver vital news to its audience during the Texas winter storms. Their strategy was thoughtful and innovative, and developed quickly. They created evergreen explainers (how to drive in the storm, how to prepare for a boil water notice) and reshared them constantly, ensuring the audience got the information, even if the algorithm skipped it the first scroll around. While Twitter is often thought of as the breaking-news platform, the Dallas team recognized their Instagram audience was more engaged and hyperlocal, and they could actually break news on the platform:

At times, we created content exclusively for Instagram that hadn’t yet been reported, such as information about power outages for small communities and water supply locations, because news was breaking so fast.

It’s a fantastic case study in how to respond to audience needs during an intense news cycle. They review what worked, what didn’t, and learnings for future crises and breaking news. Highly recommend the full read!

This week’s tweet resurfaced a graph from this CJR piece on linkrot at NYT that I missed back in May, and it just made my head 🤯



Samantha Zabell

Audience development strategist, previously at Medium, Time Inc., Real Simple