👋 I'm the Managing Editor here at Hacker Noon. I also make podcasts and write stories.
At Hacker Noon's first All-Hands company meeting for 2020, CPO Dane Lyons introduced the team to the concept of a North Star Metric. Since the term is pretty self-explanatory, I'll get straight to the story of how we're using this framework to prioritize activity.
Hacker Noon's North Star Metric is Reading Time.
What good is getting published on one of the world's biggest independent tech sites if nobody's taking the time to read your work?
The inverse also holds true—how credible is the claim to being one of world's biggest tech sites if the majority of your audience isn't getting real value from the content you're publishing?
There Are Multiple Categories Of Inputs With The Potential To Move The North Star Metric.
If our critical number is Total Reading Time on Hacker Noon, we know from experience that there are X number of inputs (see WIP sketch above) likely move this metric, e.g.:
Improving Hacker Noon's reading experience is one of the ways our Product Team influences reading time.
Everything from an early decision to exclude paywalls or pop-up ads to recent innovations like in-line annotations are great examples of bets taken by Product to move the North Star Metric.
When it comes to influencing Hacker Noon's North Star Metric, The Editorial Team has the most manoeuvrability and influence within the input category of Distribution.
Any Team Member Can 'Bet' On An Input Within Any Category, In The Hopes of Moving The North Star Metric
So, for example: as managing editor, I make a daily bet that the more stories I review, copyedit, improve, optimize, and distribute, the more time people will spend reading stories on Hacker Noon.
Longer term, I'm currently betting on inputs like improving our user on-boarding experience with stellar app emails, and the growth of Hacker Noon's Instagram following as an input with the potential to become a key content distribution channel and traffic source for us.
(We're pretty late to the game, but bootstrapping, in a sense; trying to work smart and not hard to find out how many legitimate, engaged followers it's possible to gain with only intelligent content; so far, spending zero cash or ads or bots.)
When you publish a story on Hacker Noon, a number of Content Distribution levers get pulled to make sure your story has the best chance of being seen by someone who might actually GAF about your POV—as soon as robotically possible.
Our goal, as a team, is:
Better Distribution for Every Story.
Which is also why we've launched a new email distribution strategy this year. In 2020, Hacker Noon we'll send three kinds of emails:
Go here to subscribe; click here to learn about how you can get your brand atop these emails in support of our mission to spread great tech stories all over the interwebs.
Product ➕Editorial = 💚
Dane, Austin, Storm, and Mark are placing bets big and small to improve Hacker Noon's reading experience every day. Our #progress channel reads like a PR party from the future of online publishing. Austin and I are looking forward to co-authoring regular product updates to tell the story of what we decided to work on and how it went for those two weeks (or whatever time range we decide on).
The Hacker Noon Contributor Development Program
I̶n̶ ̶2̶0̶2̶0̶,̶ ̶ This week, we're being more proactive about reaching to our to top writers, to make sure they're aware of:
Better Brand Storytelling
Working closely with our VP of Business Development, Utsav Jaiswal, Editorial will ramp up support for our Brand-As-Author program to ensure only the best branded content gets published on Hacker Noon.
Our editorial support for Brands-As-Authors is one of a few ways Hacker Noon is proving that staying sustainable in publishing today need not necessitate making people pay to read content, or employing aggressively intrusive on-site advertising strategies.
So, that covers strategy and vision. A few final housekeeping notes around the weekly/daily habits of an adequately effective editorial team:
Why U No Meeting-Free-Monday?
I loathe a Monday meeting. I mean, I loathe a meeting in general like any card-carrying millennial my age, but in particular, I find meetings on Mondays (or Fridays—unless of the fun / brainstormy / retrospective / beer-fuelled variety) completely counter-productive.
If "all happiness depended on a leisurely breakfast" in the 20th century, all happiness today surely depends on a pro-choice attitude towards your (hopefully—by now—at least partially free-range) employees' decisions to greet a new week on their own time, and acquaint themselves with its key priorities at their own pace.
We meet weekly on Tuesdays, now. It works. Across four timezones, somehow. We learned the thing about Mondays last year.
What Mondays Are For, According to Hacker Noon
You might be surprised to learn that with the plethora of freemium tools available out there for managing collaboration, workflow, and project deadlines, we're currently getting the most value from this hacked-in-five-meetings Google Sheets template:
It's insane to think that when myself and Utsav started at Hacker Noon in early 2019, it was David and Linh—and, on most days, only David and Linh—managing the entire editorial process: engaging a community of writers in the thousands; publishing enough stories a day (and making them quality enough) to sustain a monthly audience of 4M+ and a top 3k Alexa ranking, sending newsletters... All while nailing CEO'ing and COO'ing and fundraising and parenting (the most articulate and sunshiney smol human on this planet rn, fyi) on the side.
Today, Linh's got Ops on lockdown with support from The Office, and David's so CEO he now speaks in quarters—and yet both of them somehow still find the time to stay close enough to maintain highest editorial quality, happy sponsors, and an engaged and supportive community.
We're all pretty excited to be alive and a part of this team in 2020, and we hope you are too. If reading this sparked any ideas on how we might make Hacker Noon better for you in 2020, please feel free to highlight some text and leave me an annotation or two 🤗