State of the Noonion: The Year of Profitability and Product Renaissanceby@noonion
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State of the Noonion: The Year of Profitability and Product Renaissance

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In-app traffic ( saw a significant bump, with users increasing 62% YoY, and 7.9% QoQ. The MVP of all ad inventories this year goes to Writing Contests (details) Writing contests are awesome for flywheeling our business because they generate revenue, they generate quality stories, and they reward contributing writers. We have also fostered partnerships to help with content distribution, and attract new writers and better stories. In 2021, we published 10,355 stories and 13,637,478 words, a 4% increase in stories published.
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State of the Noonion for HackerNoon Shareholders HackerNoon profile picture

This is a

version of the HackerNoon shareholders' newsletter by
CEO David Smooke and COO Linh Smooke sent to 1.3k shareholders.


For the 5th year in a row, we doubled HackerNoon Revenue of the previous year with 2021 revenue clocking in at

USD! And, for the first time since we started sending these shareholders newsletters, HackerNoon is profitable again, by
! Our primary ad inventories, Top Navigation, Ad By Tag, Brand as Author, and Email Newsletters, all improved in YoY revenue, and new ad inventory from Startups of the Year and Writing Contests also drove revenue up. With regards to traffic, we saw a 11% increase in readers QoQ, a 2% decrease YoY to readers on, and as of today rank as the #3,990 site on the worldwide internet by Alexa. In-app traffic ( saw a significant bump, with users increasing 62% YoY, and 7.9% QoQ. Software-wise, we strengthened the product team, and in the last 4 months we’ve shipped AI-powered Audio Stories (≈3x avg time on site), About Pages (here are some examples), Terminal Reader, Writing Prompts, Noonies 3.0, Choose Your Color, (revamped) Noonification, Emails, Internal KPI Dashboard Improvements, Open Sourced Font, Internal Changelog History for Every Story Draft, Editorial Notes, (improved) Core Web Vitals, among many other features/fixes/improvements/iterations.

Read the full Blog Post below for full context.


In 2021, VP of BD Utsav Jaiswal continued to chuck the Sponsors team along with steady growth on proven offerings, such as Top Navigation, Ad By Tag, Brand as Author,  Email Newsletters, and Noonies, while also opening up new revenue generating streams including Writing Contests, Startups of the Year, Startup Specials, and Managed Account Services! Startups of the Year nominated 44k startups and generated unique social data on trending startups via 190k votes. We’ll also be opening up new ad inventory via the upcoming coin price pages and audio story ad placements. With the growth of these inventories, we see a path to double again in 2022.

The MVP of all ad inventories this year goes to Writing Contests (details). Writing contests are awesome for flywheeling our business because they generate revenue, they generate quality stories, and they reward contributing writers. Our early group of customers, including Sandbox, Wix, and Everscale (formerly Freeton), accounted for

in revenue, and thousands of new quality stories around trending tech movements like #gaming-metaverse and #decentralized-internet.  

📈Traffic & Editorial

In 2021, we published 10,355 stories and 13,637,478 words. That’s a 4% increase in stories published and 5% increase in total words published YoY. While the rate of publishing seems to have stabilized instead of increasing significantly, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work done programmatically and with our human editors to improve the overall quality of all of our stories. To improve the average story quality in 2021, we brushed up the editorial experience in our Content Management System by shipping Markdown text editor, AI-powered TL;DR generator, Writer/Editor messaging notes, an internal measuring system for story submission quality, and a built-in plagiarism detection tool. By growing the roles of part-time Junior Editors to our editorial team, we also ensure that every article submitted is checked for formatting, plagiarism, grammar, writing quality, before being reviewed by a second more Senior Editor for a final quality control check, internet distribution optimization, and headline rewrite options. Our writers seem to really appreciate the overall bump in editorial quality. 

Notably, this year Limarc Ambalina rose up as the VP of Editorial, who played a critical role in various initiatives such as the Blogging Fellowship, Slogging, Writing Contests, Writing Prompts, and the expansion of the editorial team. In company history, we are now past 25k writers published. We have also fostered numerous partnerships to both help with content distribution, and to attract new writers and better stories. Some of these recent partnerships include Digg, Den, Flipboard, Headtopics, Tealfeed, Blockster, Blockchain Game Alliance, Data Driven Investor, Microverse,, Quora, and NewsBreak.

🚀 Product + Software

Here’s a (non-exhaustive list) of Notable Product Progress since our previous shareholders letter sent on August 19, 2021:

  • Audio for (most) stories: AI-empowered audio for all new stories going forward and the ten thousand most read stories in our library. Initial Results are encouraging: users stay ≈3x times as long if they click on the Listen to this Story button. This is built with Google Cloud’s Text to Speech API. We launched it with four voice characters so that readers have some diverse options for their accent preferences: Dr. One, Ms. Hacker, Madam Beckham, and Ali Mohat. 
  • A total revamp of the Noonies Voting Software backend: we migrated our database for the Noonies from legacy Prisma DB to Firebase, both for current and previous years to ensure our award links remain evergreen. The frontend got a new lick of paint, a dark mode, and several speed improvements over past iterations. We also resolved several SEO shortfalls from 1.0/2.0 versions to boost organic traffic.  
  • In-app Editor/Writer Notes: Our first iteration of a messaging feature! Editors and Writers can now communicate in app via our writers note feature. Editors use this feature to make improvements/suggestions to a story, and writers use it to be proactive about a story they want to improve. A game-changer for our editorial process!
  • Individual User About Pages (here are some examples): The about page is the second most visited page on the average site (after the homepage). With these About Pages, we are validating writers’ expertise, professional story, and perspective. So far 6,635 About Pages have been created. The page also allows for up to ten Linktree style call to actions so our contributors can better drive traffic to their corners of the internet.  Some people are very psyched
  • Cleaner URL Structure: story URLs now no longer have a randomized string of letters at the end, which makes them more user-friendly and good for SEO. Less wasted space in the URL FTW. 
  • Writing Prompts Templates: with a few simple clicks, users can now select a topic/prompt of choice such as writers-exclusive interview, opinion on the news, or knowledge on a niche such as data science. They then will be directed to a draft page on and simply start answering the questions. Since launch, this initiative has resulted in 483 quality stories. You can read some of the interviews via #meet-the-writer, #startups-of-the-year, #good-company-interview#noonies2021, and #writing-prompts.
  • We agreed to a one year
    contract with Vercel for hosting. We have been having fun building with them and the whole develop/preview/ship mindset. I think it’s wise to not rely on one host, overall we currently split most of our hosting between Vercel and Google Cloud Platform. 
  • Plagiarism Checker. With one button within the app, editors can check any story for plagiarism and plagiarism likelihood percentages. Blocks a lot of bad actors and saves our editors and junior editors a ton of time. 
  • Abandoned Drafts get the love they deserve! Users who leave a draft open for too long now get an email from Natasha reminding them to take care of their mental health AND finish the draft. 
  • Slogging along (#slogging)! We made back-end improvements, SlackBot development, editorial flow iterations, and the ability to edit drag and drop convos around within our text editor. The primary beta group of 855 writers in wrote and published 258 Slogging stories together so far. ProductSchool and a few others have also been using the beta app as well. We’ll be listing it in the Slack App Store later in the year. That conversation should be a blog post.
  • Choose Your Color: a more colorful HackerNoon FTW! Users can choose from 4 default color palettes, or even customize the primary site and even the ad colors to whatever their heart desires. This new paint icon button (designed by Kien Dao) has proved a viable path for account creation, accounting for 3,275 new accounts in December alone. 
  • Verified Writers (invite-only, for now) ✅: a couple trusted, highly qualified contributing writers are now able to bypass the editorial process and publish their own stories. This includes a visual checkmark and rainbow hologram thumbnail border. Yet, some users still choose to submit to the editors anyway because we have better headline-practice ha. We’re still experimenting with what exactly verified means. 
  • Around the Web on the Story Page (live) and Writer Stats pages (soon): Using the AHrefs API, we automatically cite where every story is mentioned, discussed, and/or linked around the internet. Scroll down to the bottom of any story to see. 36905 stories have been featured around the web 180379 times, each story gets an average of 4.9 backlinks from quality sites around the web!
  • Core Web Vitals: much improved across both mobile and desktop, especially in the first and largest contentful paint, making the site much more accessible to those with limited internet bandwidth. 
  • Editorial Dashboard 2.1! A revamped Editor Dashboard and in-app workflow to match our evolving and expanding editorial team, with WoW stats on stories published, scheduled, rejected and more editorial insights! Also, whichever editor publishes the most stories wins “The Stephen King Award” and whichever rejects the most stories wins “The This is Sparta Award.”
  • launch! We partnered with Stackcommerce to build an online shop to sell HackerNoon branded merchandise, and provide users with discounts on valuable tech tools and online courses. 
  • Revamped Twitter Bot. We now have much more control and autonomy over what and how frequently stories get posted to Twitter!
  • The Terminal Reader is live! Users can read HackerNoon’s entire library of stories in a terminal-like interface. This application comes with a variety of commands so you can find and read your next story like a software developer. Please type ‘help’ to see the functions. 
  • More Image Optimization Work to speed up different types of images and reduce hosting bills. 
  • Story Footer. Admin can set up default text to book-end a story - saves editors a lot of time to add default content to a group of stories, like text about the writing contest the story is entered into. 
  • NFT story embed. We used a framework that we found via, but it only works for ERC-721 NFTs. While ETH leads the NFT market for now, minting an NFT is a function just about any reliable blockchain can do. We’ll continue to explore different methods to embed digital assets into HackerNoon stories. 
  • Homepage Live Reactions: to make the site look more dynamic, we added our live reader component to the homepage just below #hackernoon-top-stories.

WIP building, i.e. what’s next: Commenting System, Coin Price Pages, Coin Price Page Ad Placements, Dynamic Sitemap, Notification System, Reader Mobile App, Audio Story Distribution, Audio Story Ad Placements, Web 3.0 Signup/Login, In-app Writing Contest Payments, Slogging Wordpress Plugin, Slogging Slack App Directory Listing, Writer Dashboard Revamp, Search Discovery Experience Revamp, and more :-) 

💚A Few More Notable Initiatives:

Internet voting momentum, the HackerShip takes off, and a few more miscellaneous milestones:

  • Noonies 3.0 & Startups of the Year: We launched our 3rd ever Noonies Awards in August! In 2021, our voting software powering Noonies.Tech (FAQ) and (FAQ) generated
    in sponsorship revenue, received 140k votes (so far), and voting will conclude January 26. Winners for both are announced on Valentine’s Day. Each Startup of the Year winner receives a tech company news page, each Noonies winner receives an original Noonie NFT, and there’s a total of $100k in-kind prizes from the sponsors Brex, Get.Tech, ByBit, and more sponsors. These campaigns have generated quality organic mentions.
  • Hacker Noon Font 2.0: we’ve open sourced our second ever in-house designed font! We’ve heard feedback from the community about our first font, and made something more practical and easy on the eyes. This font is all about readability and usability! Rounded pixelation. You can get access to the Font via Brand Manual or our GitHub
  • Podcast: this year, we’ve restructured the podcast and re-introduced this line item in our inventory! Through a couple of trials and errors (such as with This Week on Planet Internet series), we’ve narrowed down a structure that works for the team, our guests, and our sponsors. Check out the latest series: Amy Learns Crypto, sponsored by Bybit
  • HackerShip: towards the end of the year, we launched our first ever internship and apprenticeship program that attracts almost 400 applicants within 48 hours. 15 interns are now going through various onboarding processes to help with the day-to-day tasks of Editorial, Marketing, Sponsor, Product, and Operation teams. 
  • Easter egg (congrats on making it to this point of newsletter - Tweet/Share this blog post with @HackerNoon & #Verse for a free Merch): we launched a Facebook Meta competitor, VERSE, for good measure

Until next time Slogging along,

HackerNoon COO Linh Dao Smooke & CEO David Smooke

P.S. Some notable recent press citations of HackerNoon stories: Forbes, Fast Company, Google Cloud Official Blog, Google Books, Amazon AWS Official Blog, Cloudflare Official Blog, The Oxford Journal of International Economic Law, Coindesk, Tech Times, The Llama Sanctuary, NippleVerse, Postman, PacktPub, SkillShare, TechCrunch, Glints, The Hack Posts, Figma,, Gamezebo, Lippincott, Peninsula Daily, FreeCodeCamp, Springer Link, ACM Digital Library, MarketSquare, BusinessInsider, StarterStory, The Art Law Review, VentureBeat, and Berkeley Alumni.

P.P.S. We are moving the cadence for these State of the Noonion Addresses from every 3 months to every 4 months. This works better for us as a business so we can really focus on the actual work, but also ensures these newsletters remain robust and detailed reports. For all previous State of the Noonion newsletters simply visit Noonion for shortened/redacted/public versions.