Amanda Zamora, Texas Tribune

The Society for News Design is excited to announce that Amanda Zamora is joining our lineup of speakers for the SND Charlotte workshop on April 19-21 in Charlotte, N.C.

Zamora is Chief Audience Officer at the Texas Tribune where she works with the newsroom, design and engineering teams to foster digital engagement and audience understanding. Prior to joining the Tribune, Zamora served as Senior Engagement Editor at ProPublica and National Digital Editor at The Washington Post.

SND.org’s Greicy Mella chatted with Zamora about growing digital audience, how designers can play a role in audience growth and her favorite tacos in Texas.

TELL US ABOUT THE WORK YOU’RE DOING AT THE TEXAS TRIBUNE AND HOW YOU’RE HELPING IT GROW AS CHIEF AUDIENCE OFFICER. I’m here to help the Texas Tribune plot an audience strategy that fulfills our mission — which means we are just as concerned about engagement as we are about growth. We think very much about who our audience is, not just what they’re doing or clicking. On the growth side, I work with the newsroom, design and engineering teams to tune up existing products and platforms to make sure we’re reaching as many people as we can. The next and most important area of focus for us right now is engagement — how do we make the most of our reach to create more persistent relationships with Texans who care about politics and policy? The most basic measure of this is our ability to get people interacting with us more regularly, whether it’s viewing a relevant story or opening an email from us. But we also think about more “civic” measures of engagement. We convene more than 60 events across the state every year with elected officials, policy experts and the public. How can we make easier for people to participate in those if they can’t attend in person? How can we engage not only policy experts, but community members affected by policy? How can we keep those conversations going in a way that helps us do better journalism? And perhaps most importantly, how can we ensure that our coverage represents the communities we serve?

THROUGH YOUR VARIOUS ROLES AT THE WASHINGTON POST, PROPUBLICA, AND NOW AT THE TEXAS TRIBUNE, YOU’VE HELPED PUT AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT ON THE MAP. WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BUILD A MEANINGFUL AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY? I don’t think there’s a special secret. But through the different jobs that I’ve had, I have always thought of myself as a journalist and a storyteller. Those two things fundamentally shape how I approach audience development — claiming eyeballs for the sake of claiming eyeballs sounds like the emptiest job in the world. I get excited about helping the truth find an audience. I get excited about elevating voices that would otherwise be ignored. I get excited about telling stories in collaboration with our readers. And it turns out that those things also help us cultivate lasting audiences, which at the end of the day is much more important than occasionally “winning” the internet with a lucky hit or clever gimmick.

HOW CAN EDITORIAL AND PRODUCT DESIGNERS HELP GROW AUDIENCE AND PROMOTE CONVERSATION? In the same way that I look for ways to tell stories with our readers, we also need to be designing experiences with our readers. If your audience strategy relies on consulting analytics after you’ve built or launched the thing, you’re doing it wrong. Analytics can tell us a lot about what and how people consume our content, but they don’t tell us much about the people we wish were consuming our content or why they might want to. So yes, pay attention to analytics and evolving platform norms and optimize your content. But also have more conversations across departments about who you are trying to reach/serve/engage BEFORE you finalize product requirements. Don’t assume those people are already engaging with you. Go find your target audience and talk to them about their habits and needs. At the very least, bake some time into your process to test your design assumptions with someone outside of your newsroom before you deploy.

WHO MAKES THE BEST TACO IN TEXAS? WHO MAKES THE BEST TACO OUTSIDE OF TEXAS? My dad makes the best taquitos in Texas! Aside from his, I also highly recommend Veracruz in Austin. They keep the torn tortillas in their Migas tacos just a little bit crisp, which is how I remember my dad making our Migas growing up. Outside of Texas? Definitely not New York City (sorry). But La Super-Rica in Santa Barbara is as good as it sounds.

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About SND Charlotte

• Don’t miss your chance to UNITE & REBEL, register today: Register
• Book your hotel room (before they run out!): Use the SND discount link
• Check out the lineup of speakers we’ve announced for the workshop. What a team!
• Don’t miss the Think Before You Make pre-conference day at the U.S. National Whitewater Center