The Aud Dev Digest / July 6, 2021

The “OOO” edition 🌴

Samantha Zabell
3 min readJul 6, 2021

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, it appears, and they can be shared as Highlights. A new prompt encourages creators to “save this to a Highlight for your Fans,” explaining that, by doing so, “fans always have something to see when they join.”

The paywall will always find you. See for yourself:

2️⃣ The teens are going to save the planet, save democracy, and save publishing, while they’re at it. Good for you, teens. Thank you, teens! When I was a teen, I saved nothing and no one. I just really love that there’s an entire genre of content on this platform devoted to enticing readers to buy books. The only issue, which is a larger publishing and marketing issue, is that, “BookTok content tends to focus around the five or so “hot” books,” — kind of like how every “Best Of” list includes the same 10–15 books at the end of the year.” Who is going to solve the problem of building up an audience for indie and small press books? I eagerly await! Until then, read about BookTok:

3️⃣ The post-Trump slump, the post-pandemic fatigue, the return of “plans” to the calendar — all of this is creating a widespread sense of news and attention burnout for readers, which is causing a problem for publishers. And this isn’t your typical summer slow-down, this is a symptom of something larger, explains Brian Morrissey, who explains that the real pivot for digital media should be the pivot to serving your “true believers:”

“People can only subscribe to so many newsletters, take out memberships at so many publications. I’ve always believed that every brand has a certain number of true believers. These are people who will click or sign up for whatever you put in front of them. The number is different for each brand. But inevitably, all brands run out of true believers. That’s when the hard work begins, the unglamorous daily grind of eking out small wins and focusing on the details that drive incremental gains. There are no hacks or shortcuts on offer.”

Loyal fans, subscribers/members, whatever it is: Publishers need to find, court, and retain the people who would ride or die for their content. Huge influxes of page views on a viral story are just gravy (or gravy train if you’re Outbrain, because we live in a world where the new media model has created a company that found success from showing really gross photos of foot fungus under an article). Anyway, more from Morrissey in his newsletter:

Since I am on vacation, only fair that this week’s tweet helps you unplug a bit, too. I love this tip from LA Times audience editor Adrienne Shih, because it doesn’t require you to tap out completely from being an informed citizen. It just helps you moderate that constant inbound stream of information.



Samantha Zabell

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