The Aud Dev Digest / July 20, 2021

The 💰 edition

Samantha Zabell
3 min readJul 20, 2021

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 have been working in the industry for more than 15 years (how) are making a mean salary of about $113K. Plus:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2020, the median salary for a Marketing Manager is $141,490 — compare that to a Social Media Manager (a role not even represented in the handbook) which this survey says has a median salary is $63,000. Even if you look at the highest paying social roles entered in this survey (those with Senior Director, SVP, or VP in their title), you’ll find the median salary is $123,500.

This digest is biased towards audience professionals—I think they are some of the smartest people in any newsroom, or any company looking to tell its story and engage with its users or readers. Audience professionals are writers, researchers, listeners, number crunchers, optimizers, analyzers, presenters, moderators, and more. And yet.

See all of the graphs for yourself:

2️⃣ Onto something a little lighter, I loved this mini oral history of “the photo dump,” which is all over Instagram. (Obligated to make the joke my dad would definitely make: “People are taking dumps all over social media?” Haha, dad.)

Interesting to read this piece in the context of Mosseri’s recent announcement that Instagram is no longer a photo-sharing app. Because these photo dumps put photo sharing front and center, seem reminiscent of the Facebook “Mobile Uploads” albums, auto-generated, not particularly high quality, and very random. Maya Ernest at Input writes:

“Photo dumps may be the closest we get to authenticity. Like Kim mentions, the carousel posts bring Instagram back to its original roots as an online scrapbook.”

3️⃣ I loved this longform piece from The Cut on the newsletter avalanche. And it reminded me how much easier it is for me to enjoy longform on a site/on paper than in my inbox. Why is that? Am I alone? Lots of discussion here on people-focused newsletters, obviously, given Substack and Bulletin and all of the creator-focused email products in development. But she makes an important point to the end that we aren’t talking about enough: Email was supposed to be an “escape” from the internet, a safe space/an intimate moment. But if you subscribe to ten thousand emails, plus your personal emails and your marketing emails and those spam emails you can’t control, then is your inbox any better than the endless scroll of Twitter? It’s more intentionally built, but maybe equally as unruly. And for a culture obsessed with Inbox Zero, the current state of newsletters/newsletter strategy seems to be actively pushing against that. Molly Fischer says it better, so just read her words instead!

Happy Tuesday, everyone. Those are the three things. And this week’s tweet might be my favorite yet:



Samantha Zabell

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