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State Of The Noonion Q1 2020: Progress In Spite Of COVID-19 by@noonion

State Of The Noonion Q1 2020: Progress In Spite Of COVID-19

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State of the Noonion Hacker Noon profile picture

State of the Noonion

Where you can read redacted shareholder letters being sent to Hacker Noon 1.3k+ shareholders every quarter.

TL; DR

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With millions of Covid19 cases worldwide, stock market volatility, and billions of people under stay at home orders, this pandemic creates threats and opportunities for humanity. With great gratitude, Hacker Noon keeps humming along. We’ve always been an entirely remote team, and we like our position as a digital source of knowledge in time when people are spending as much time as ever reading online. This quarter was strong and steady at 3.4M+ words published (+5% 2019 average), 4.5M+ monthly readers (+12% 2019 average) and

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in revenue (+42% above 2019 quarterly average). We’ll dig into how our business is making adaptations for the pandemic, but our overall strategy remains unchanged. Hacker Noon publishes insightful stories, makes useful software, and just is how hackers start their afternoons.

Product Experience

We’re focused on making a better place for technologists to read, write and publish.

Our big release of the quarter was dubbed NextGreen: a redesign and re-architecture built with the NextJS framework on the story page, homepage, search page and tagged page. The story page is where the vast majority of our traffic lives, and while we’ve been testing the new design work live for the last three weeks on production, average time on page is up 14% on the story page. Almost as importantly, this new architecture streamlines deployment across our CDN, cloud functions and application, so future iterations can deploy significantly faster.

More Product Initiatives that were made live this quarter:

Ad by Tag

  • Needle: Revenue
  • Example: #java
  • Notes: Ad placement relevancy to content.
  • Early returns: First couple Beta payings customers are live. Bugs worked out.

Story Scheduling

  • Needle: Words Published
  • Example: story
  • Notes: Optimizing the rate of publishing.
  • Early returns: Average stories published per day is 29. This helps keep the editors sane.

Commenting Evolution

  • Needle: Words Published
  • Example: Scroll down to end of a story
  • Notes: Integrated Disqus and added our own custom emojis
  • Early returns: More learnings about what social proof matters.

Deeper Algolia Integration

  • Needle: Time Reading
  • Example: Search anything on site
  • Notes: Rich media data  for stories on all curation pages and filters  on the search page
  • Early returns: More value for curation decisions

Product Initiatives that are currently in alpha and beta:

Collections

  • Needle: Time Reading
  • Example: HN top stories
  • Notes: Curated reading lists from Hacker Noon & around the web

Noonies V2

  • Needle: Revenue
  • Example: The Noonies
  • Notes: Iterate on last year’s custom voting app

Web Monetization

  • Needle: Words Published
  • Example: site source code
  • Notes: Real time streaming payments from readers to writers to charities

Collaborative Editing V1

  • Needle: Words Published
  • Example: story
  • Notes: Unlisted draft links & in talks to white label markup.io

Subscriptions V1

  • Needle - Time Reading
  • Example - n/a
  • Notes - Logic to subscribe to tags and authors

We did run a beta experiment hosting annotations and inline comments on a blockchain, partnering with GUN decentralized peer to peer database. It is not ready to deploy to all users, so we are exploring multiple approaches to micro-content hosting and curation within our user facing experience. GUN is still providing page load performance insights. Curious about how text hosting evolves over time.

We also did experience some spammy visitors - so that was a fun cat and mouse game that resulted in more spam prevention implementations. Lots of free roblox codes. New users now earn writer functionality, like profile advertisements, after they spend time reading and writing. Spam management never ends, it’s part of running a large community, and now our system has a bit more protection baked in.

In the long term, we have a lot of options to be a better place for technologists to read, write, and publish. Once Hacker Noon the site is a profitable growth machine, we could explore questions like, how is it possible to use our software to serve more of the internet? Additionally, we remain excited about the creation of token generated by time reading created. But we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. In the short term, our product team is iterating on how curation works (collections and reactions), improving the writer experience (text editor interactions and human editor interactions), and building out the reader account experience (subscriptions and recommendations).  As our site is historically about 75% desktop and 25% mobile readership - and other many text content destinations (especially in tech)  are closer to 50% desktop and 50% mobile - we are likely to move our attention to a mobile application later in the year. But we do operate with the product funnel approach.

Editorial Experience

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We published 2,200 stories for the quarter. You can view the list of our best stories (3.37% of all stories) curated by editors here. We also have put gasoline on stories of the time, publishing 175 Coronavirus /Covid-19 stories (and rejecting about 350 more), besides our regular powerful topics, namely programming, python, and cryptocurrency stories.

Google News started picking up Hacker Noon stories in late February, mostly our cryptocurrency news. We’ll be monitoring this source, but it is a solid win for amplifying the publish button, as Google News has ≈630M+ users. Some of top recent mentions around the web are Mercedes Benz commercial, Wired, Forbes, book citations, Investor Place, Media Post, Cornell, Yale, International Business Times, Yahoo Finance, Bitcoin Exchange Guide,  ZDNet, BizCommunity, NewsMax, Crypto Slate, Crypto Daily, Security Boulevard, Hacker Earth, Decrypt, UPenn Law School, Seeking Alpha, Value Walk, Dice, IFL Science, ProductHunt, Cointelegraph, CoindeskBitcoinist, Thrive Global, Bitcoin.com, GeekWire, and other places around the web.

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We have further steered into the “ugly-highlighter-pixelated-terminal green” for our pixelated presence on incumbent social media platforms. We are creating and distributing more micro-content. In Q1 2020, not only did we continue to expand on current strong platforms such as on Facebook (where we gained a “verified” checkmark),  Twitter (where we have not gained a verified checkmark), Youtube (where we post podcast episodes and software updates) or LinkedIn (where they say we have 200+ ‘employees’), Pinterest (with almost 400k monthly views exclusively from RSS repost), or Instagram (it’s very green); but also on younger platforms, such as Giphy (with 5.3M views across 80 GIFs), Minds (42k subscribers), and Unsplash (817k views and 2k downloads).

Revenue

Our

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in revenue was 42% higher than the average quarter in 2019, but a 6% decline from 2019 Q4, which was the highest in company history. Advertising is highly seasonal and even in growing businesses, Q1 is often less than Q4 of the prior year. Top navigation continued to lead the way, brand as author overperformed, and we made a big move into ad placement by content relevancy with the beta launch of our ad by tag program.

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At Hacker Noon, we’ve also been building better tech for the sponsorship experience. For the prospective & current customers, we’ve automated our internal brand as author publishing flow. For any lead that visits our sponsor page, we also introduced our own sales chatbot.

We have also started to open our Ad by Tag beta program, with Sentry & NORDVPN as beta customers.  As mentioned above, it’s our first ad placement by content relevancy (example of Sentry on the Javascript page).

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While the entire economy is subject to this global downturn, the effect of the bottom-line was not massive to ours: there was one delayed customer payment and a dozen or so leads dropping, citing budget constraints. However, we continue to benefit from increased marketing budgets from online education and knowledge based companies, such as our new customers Udacity and Udemy. Also, a lot of event marketing budgets have opened up, and how tech companies driving tech people to online events could grow. I think tech companies marketing budgets will not shrink like other industries’ budgets, but who knows? What we control is how we make a better sales machine.

Profit and Loss

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Jobs

In growing our team, we plan to continue what has worked, hire for part time project/s, with the plan to consider each person for full-time. Our next three roles this year are Head of Story Recruitment, Sales Representative, and T-shaped Backend Developer.  Email us if you have a candidate in mind.

Outlook

Don’t forget to wash your hands :-)

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