The Aud Dev Digest / June 22, 2021

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

Samantha Zabell
3 min readJun 22, 2021

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 of: “You should write about that!” or “That tweet is a post,” then I recommend this from Kaitlyn Tiffany at The Atlantic:

2️⃣ I truly cannot remember a time in media where we didn’t talk/think/worry about newsletters all the time. And Newsletter People were in a new tizzy this week over the news that Apple will eliminate pixel-tracking so that audience editors everywhere will be tasked with coming up with a new way to track effectiveness and success in lieu of open rates and CTRs (and comes on top of Promotions Tab Purgatory). There was a lot written this week, but my favorite is in Medialyte, Mark Stenberg’s —the irony is not lost on me—newsletter:

People have turned to email because it avoids algorithms, but in fact it only minimizes them. We turned to email because it is direct, but in fact it is still mitigated by email service providers and inbox platforms. We turned to email because it offers us a chance to read great writing without wading through the morass of the web, but in fact the email-reading experience remains clunky and disjointed, at best.

3️⃣ I had a bunch of links I was choosing between for this week’s Third Thing, and then I got this week’s issue of Culture Study by Anne Helen Petersen. She’s diving into Peloton, a community-product-lifestyle I find fascinating and also addicting, and this week’s exploration revolved around the Peloton Stars. It’s interesting to read this through an audience development lens, as many brands/media companies look to their journalists to become more than brand ambassadors, but brand icons (look at the Bon Appetit crew, NYT op-ed columnists, and you could even argue that this is how Substack recruited). There’s also an interesting discussion of authenticity, and the blend of personal and professional, that creates an even stronger sense of community and kinship throughout Peloton, one of the oldest engagement tricks in the book. Read the whole thing, and let me know what you think:

And to close, a tweet that I have not stopped thinking about, from




Samantha Zabell

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