Our software and new infrastructure is live at HackerNoon.com :-) In the first month in our own system, we published 1.33M words, served 8.167M pageviews and honestly it feels awesome to control how the software actually works. Migrations are tough, don’t get me wrong, we took some bruises in the move. 2019 Q2 will most likely be our worst financial quarter of the year, but it’s a great milestone for putting our future in our own hands. As of July 15th, we are making sponsorship money every moment the site is live. Previously, we were building on our own land but using someone else's infrastructure. Now we have our own infrastructure on our own land. So much more to build. So much more work to be done. But the early returns show a strong foundation.
This move consumed our resources, so in this Hacker Noon quarterly shareholder letter, we wanted to provide more detail than a typical quarterly update, as well as take a longer term year to date view on the important company issues.
The move was more challenging than anticipated, but most importantly we retained our site authority and SEO traffic in the move... and didn’t kill the company :-) For us, it had high stakes.
The team worked overtime (specifically Linh, Dane and Austin), lots of things broke, lots of things were fixed - it was an exciting sprint! It’s good to feel pressure, makes the work fun. We don’t have all the bells and whistles of our old content management, but it’s built from the feet up, it’s functioning, and it’s already served over 2M+ site visitors over the last month. Here’s our traffic 3 weeks before launch and 3 weeks after launch:
Also, check out this writeup in ReadWrite about the move: Hacker Noon Rips Out Medium’s Software, Replaces it With Their Own:
“In the world of tech blogging, there’s always a balance between distribution and control. If you publish on someone else’s platform, they can always change how the platform works. If you build your own site, it’s a lot of upfront work and the distribution starts at zero. Hacker Noon may be approaching a sweet spot, where contributing writers can gain more control of what their stories promote; while supplying editorial support and better distribution for every story. We’ll see.”
From July 15 - Aug 15 (first month in our own environment), we published 1,330,083 new words. In Q1 2019, we averaged 1,116,312 words published per month. Post launch, contributors are submitting more content to Hacker Noon editors than they were prelaunch.
Additionally we achieved 8,167,077 pageviews through the period on HackerNoon.com. So we successfully have people submitting more content to our new environment and traffic remains stable.
More encouraging are the early returns on why traffic is up. Page load times have been cut in half and page views per session have increased by 24%. We’re headed in the right direction, but there are gaps in our software we have to keep improving on. SEO traffic, referral traffic and social traffic are continuing to flow onto past stories previously published on HackerNoon.com.
Overall the site has been hovering between 4.7-5.4k Alexa range through Q2. We have lost a lot of links from Medium.com, which is a top 175 site in the world; we lived to tell the tale and make more money :-) We can now focus more on how to better our own distribution systems.
The story uploading, writing and editing process is now happening in our own software. Story submission volume has successfully moved over to the new story submission workflow, which starts and ends at hackernoon.com. In the first month in our own content management system, we’ve published 985 stories totalling 1,330,083 words.
In 2019 Q2, we moved two of our best performing part-time employees to full-time roles. Utsav Jaiswal, based in India, was promoted to Business Development Executive in addition to his role as Blockchain editor. Natasha Nel, based in Amsterdam, was also promoted to full-time Technology Staff Editor & Social Media Manager. I enjoy working with these talented people, and it’s an important step forward for increasing our rate of publishing. We are hiring more part-time editors.
We expanded our newsletter from just the Hacker Noon newsletter to the Blockchain Newsletter, the Software Development Newsletter, the Technology Startup Newsletter, and the Hacker Noon Newsletter. So far, the early returns have been encouraging with engagement (open & click through rates) up 50%+ when compared to the averages of our newsletter sent via Medium. We will still continue to republish these newsletters via the Medium newsletter functionality to inform and extract more of our subscribers.
We’ll be investing in the writer/editor experiences and interactions. Transparency in the editorial flow is a point of emphasis. Storm Farrell, who has served as the Software Development Editor for the last 4 months (while being the main engineer behind the Noonies), will be shifting his focus from editorial to software development work to improve the insights, communication and dashboard for all editors.
We’ll continue to get smarter about prioritizing the relevant story to the right editor, and measuring what editorial work better yields story traction results. This will improve our content quality and keep more doors open for the future of our software (such as software licensing and/or expanding from Staff Editors to Community Editors).
“Startups occasionally make the mistake of treating a launch as a finish line moment even though the name literally and appropriately implies the opposite,” said Hacker Noon CPO Dane Lyons. We're proud of what we've accomplished in our MVP but our best work is ahead of us, stay tuned.”
Here’s a breakdown of what the product offers now (read more): press release
We are a functioning and independent tech publishing platform :-)
My message to the team was “Take a deep breath. Improvement is greater than expansion.” We are moving from a product roadmap to a product funnel. For the rest of the year, we will be putting more emphasis on building for the reader (and then turning those readers into contributors). Smooth emoji reactions and slick annotations are two functionalities that we’ve started building and have not yet released. We also started building a much more robust stats page for writers, including past stories statistics, click counts on their calls to action, RSS traction, headline impression stats, and “around the web” mentions traffic. As we’ve retained and even improved on traffic to site, it is now time to show writers how all of their stories still get all the eyeballs they deserve, and then some 👀 👀 👀
sponsorship from Stream, there were over 55k votes cast for 457 nominees across 50 award categories. The campaign was a resounding success. See 2019’s Noonies winners. It was fun. Great to see the community make their cases for their favorite Noonie nominees. Overall, we're also excited that we got our feet wet in custom voting technology. We look forward to contributing more to how the internet curates, ranks and distributes content. Next year will be an even bigger and better Noonies next year.
The site has started making money again through sitewide billboard sponsorships and brand as author posts with Indeed being our largest customer to date (
About half of our sales so far came from Sitewide Top Nav Billboard (ad atop every single page of site). We presold redacted clicks at redacted CPC prior to launch. This low price was a sign of trust in our future with early pre-paid customers. Starting July 13, we started bringing back our bidding system, which works well for 1.0; as well as charging a premium for time-sensitive sponsorship campaigns. Our goal is to average
monthly revenue for Billboard Top Nav by January 2020.
Brand-as-author comes in third so far this year but it’s only been live for a month. There are 30+ paying customers in the new environment, and that’s all from inbound leads. Brand as author is a very low entry point at $99 - $199 per post, depending on volume purchased (we now offer monthly and weekly subscription plans). However, the brands do the labor of producing the content and we have quality automated distribution systems.
The marginal cost to the company is only 10-30 minutes of editor time per post. This is strong unit economics. We’re learning how it scales - I’m bullish on it. Additional, unlike sponsorships on microsites, podcasts, events and even via sitewide billboard, brand as author is not limited or exclusive supply. Our ambitious goal is getting to 300+ brands publishing with credits on Hacker Noon, averaging redacted monthly revenue by March 2020.
To achieve this, we will establish and accelerate our outbound sales campaigns to top corporate blogs, and better integrate the brand-as-author flow within our app, so brands can pay, track their stories, and consider other sponsorship options directly on our site. All brand as author customers are logged into our app to publish content and track content performance; all brand as author customers have land and expand potential for additional sponsorships down the line.
Other revenue channels include the Noonies Sponsorship (more below), event sponsorships, job ads, and newsletter sponsorships. All of these channels could grow. We haven’t even started down the potential roads of referral sales and on site merchase. From the success of the Noonies sponsorship, we can start thinking more about digital campaigns around the Hacker Noon brand, and even licensing the microsite’s software. Events could happen more often. Our one event in Q2 was in London and generated
. And, newsletter sponsorship should start growing weekly now we’ve moved from 1 weekly newsletter to 4 weekly newsletters. Overall we need to drive, systemize and grow (1) Billboard Top Nav sponsorships and (2) Brand-as-author revenue streams, and then if we want, (3) there’s the freedom to experiment resources on additional revenue streams.
Change is never easy, and we’ve spent the time and learned better processes to help our community through change. This quarter, we’ve built a help section and a [email protected] line. 97% of the library is in our new publishing system, we’ve worked with hundreds of contributing writers 1:1 to improve migration errors, and we’ve worked with a few dozen to redirect their story elsewhere.
We only want to publish anyone who wants to be here. There are many aspects that we can improve when serving our community, but the team has quickly iterated on tech solutions (like the ability to edit 1.0 stories) and education materials through the transition. Support tickets have declined every week since the move. We are investing in on site solutions for contributing writers to control their content (such as changing handle & merging accounts), so that less customer support on the margin is needed.
… and Wins:
Our goal is to be profitable (monthly) by Jan 2020. We think the path to
/month can be achieved primarily through sitewide billboards and brand as author posts. Profitability gives optionality on how and when the company can scale what’s working, take on risk and invest resources.
The path to raising our floor as a company is clear, but how high can the ceiling be? I strongly think and believe we can become a profitable and sustainable company without a bold expansion to an uncharted territory. As our sponsorships are better integrated into the app and optimized, our revenue will rise. But if we’re talking moonshot directions measured in years and decades, my outlook is still (1) very bullish on an underlying cryptocurrency tied to contributor site value created, and (2) the licensing or in house usage of our new software to build more sites.
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