State of the Noonion: Green Clock Strikes Noon

17 Oct 2022

This is a redacted version of the HackerNoon shareholders' newsletter by CEO David Smooke and COO Linh Smooke sent to 1.3k shareholders. The feature image was generated by Stable Diffusion, prompt “Green clock strikes noon on a terminal computer screen”


We’ve been building! HackerNoon shipped hundreds of product features meant to add more context and data to our publishing platform, notably with AI and Web3 technologies.

As always, we serve three primary user groups: millions of readers (averaging 4M pageviews monthly YTD), 35k+ writers, and 2.5k+ customers. 2022 YTD Revenue is at $redacted, and $redacted over the last 365 days. That’s a 34.5% growth rate YoY and 97% of total 2021’s revenue, with ≈3 months left in the year. While we remain profitable YTD and optimistic for our publishing, software and revenue growth, we did lose some customers to market conditions.

Writing Contests for three quarters in a row surpassed Billboard Top Nav as the biggest and fastest growing inventories. Here are some recent HackerNoon product updates we are excited about: stable diffusion image generation within our text editor, crypto coin price pages, NFT profile images, the tech beat rankings, tech company brief rankings and newsletter, slogging in the slack app store, Star Trek themed Noonies, the tech marketing store, blockchain game rankings, emoji credibility indicators, & technology polls. LFG.

Read the rest of the article for full context.

Pictured above, image for prompt of “Green Clock Strikes Noon on Terminal Computer Screen.Hacker. Reading with a Smile” generated via the HackerNoon text editor.

🚀 Product Development

The most fulfilling part of our past 4 months has been features and iterations to improve the experience for our readers, writers, and brands.

The HackerNoon publishing platform is making a dedicated effort to add more relevant context to content, integrate more insightful data via APIs, steer into Web3 adoption, and simply double down on the existing moments of product delight.

We’ll dig into the product development below, but some of the recent highlights are stable diffusion image generation within our text editor, crypto coin price pages, NFT profile images, the tech beat rankings, tech company brief rankings and newsletter, slogging in the slack app store, star trek themed Noonies, the tech marketing store, emoji credibility indicators, technology polls, and more :-)

Context-Building Features

Quote from an old story, generated via our new Quote Sharing Image Feature

Quote from an old story, generated via our new Quote Sharing Image Feature. Launched 2 weeks ago, this feature turns any highlighted text into downloadable and shareable quote images. See them used in the wild here.

Readers and writers alike trust HackerNoon as a destination for editorial quality and transparency. Gaining that trust takes time, and, in many cases, admission of biases inherent to built-in perspectives. We’ve learned that early on with our clear distinction between an individual story and a brand-as-author story. These following features are meant to provide more context to the stories and writers’ perspectives:

  • Emoji Credibility Indicators: Visit any HackerNoon story and hover over the emojis underneath the writer’s bio, you will be able to see if the content is original or republished, timely (such as if the writer was present on-the-ground), is associated with a coin or a company, or uses referral links. This feature relies on both writers’ self-reporting and editors’ verification, as every HackerNoon story is subject to the Second Human Rule.
  • Mentioned in Stories: You can also scroll down to the bottom of the story to see the people, coins and companies mentioned (if any) in the story you just read. Within the HackerNoon editor, writers can now easily link to any human, company, coin, or other story by typing a few keywords, a handy feature that users of Google Doc and Notion certainly appreciate.
  • Rich Media URL Embeds: links are hyper-important in context building, but they are easy to miss. This feature allows writers to embed any URL within the HackerNoon’s markdown editor and provides readers with title, image, and basic meta descriptions. This is an expansion of our existing Youtube, Twitter and Git copy and paste embed functionality.

Data API Journalism

We learned a long time ago that a typical HackerNoon reader is more educated and wealthier than industry’s average, and we know they would appreciate more data-driven insights, such as with these following features:

Web3 Integrations

HackerNoon built its own content management system, meaning we have near absolute flexibility when it comes to choosing which technologies to maximize readership. We are making a dedicated push for Web3 technologies in HackerNoon, and are in talks with more Web3 staples to work with HackerNoon. Here is our YTD progress:

Continuous Redesign

We’ve continued to enhance user experience across all three groups with these following platform-exclusive features:

Protip: Subscribe to #HackerNoon-Product for more regular HackerNoon publishing platform updates :-)

💰 Revenue

2022 YTD Revenue is at $redacted. That’s a 34.5% growth rate YoY and 97% of total 2021’s revenue, with ≈3 months left in the year. While we remain profitable YTD and optimistic for our diversified revenue growth, we did lose some customers to market conditions. Revenue over the last 365 days is $redacted with the Writing Contests making $redacted YTD.

Billboard ADs, Newsletters, and Niche ADs constitute our core limited inventory items and continue to be our top revenue sources.

  • Billboard ADs made $redacted YTD indicating the continued trust our advertisers have placed in our longest-running limited inventory.
  • Newsletter ADs made $redacted YTD and now boast of companies such as Stanford, Linode, and 80,000 hours amongst its clientele. The increased subscriber numbers MoM and the increased open rate (from 16% last quarter to 21% this quarter) point towards a higher value provided to clients at the same price point.
  • Ad by Tags made $redacted YTD and has been the most affected by the welcome emergence of writing contests. With major tags being taken over by the writing competitions, AD by Tags is being reimagined as buttoned links on the tagged pages.
  • Story Audio ADs (synthetically produced by AI) made $redacted YTD and have served as a new cheaper alternative to Billboard ADs to help companies leverage advertising on HackerNoon at a lower cost. Lisk, Algorand, Couchbase and more have been the biggest buyers of this inventory.

Writing Contests — Now Our Largest Inventory

Writing Contests for 3 quarters in a row now surpassed Billboard Top Nav as the largest HackerNoon inventory. Writing Contests accumulated 2K+ stories participated and 5M+ reads across all stories. Linode even sponsored a #Linux writing competition while being acquired by Akama. Since its launch late last year, writing contests sponsors, such as SandBox, Sentry, and Twingate, have committed to a total of ~$200k in payout money to winners.

Writing Contests create the right flywheel incentives (pictured below): more new quality content on the internet creates a win for readers, a win for sponsors, and a win for contributing writers!

Looking at performance across the sponsors, we can see that the contest landing pages created brings thousands of new visitors to HackerNoon and to the sponsors (some with millions of impressions), while enabling great content creators to earn from their pen and encouraging content creation on niche technical topics. Sponsors and writers are pumped about these contests (see more).

Brand Publishing Growth via Brand as Author Program

Publishing as a brand by consuming our free credit is most brands' first contact with the HackerNoon ecosystem. Over 3000 brands have leveraged this offer to broaden their content marketing efforts.

HackerNoon's managed account services help build upon those efforts. For example, Arthur Hayes, BNBchain, and Amazon IVS, to name a few, increased the reach of their existing corporate blogs by simply choosing to republish on HackerNoon. We’ve also seen increased demand from stalwarts in the Blockchain space like Coinbase, Avalanche and Lisk to buy from HackerNoon in order to target Web3 developers.

This quarter, buoyed by strong sales to Brands and the demand for more exposure, we increased prices per article from $redacted to $redacted. This price increase enabled us to bring over to Brands our biggest differentiator from our Managed Accounts Program - a guaranteed $100 per story ad spend on social media. Our team’s accumulated enough social media ad insights to have these niche ads perform well. Basically, we are paid to drive more relevant traffic to our own site while helping drive traffic to our paying customers.

With literally thousands of brands now publishing with us, we've streamlined mandatory disclosures, editorial transparency, and communicated content guidelines to Brands which helped speed up the time to publish.

NEW: The All-You-Can-Buy Brand Storefront

This quarter, we also launched the Brand Dashboard Storefront to enable customers and clients to self-checkout This new experience has generated a little over $redacted in revenue YTD (mostly on Brand-as-author credits). On top of ability for brands to preview each and every ad, the storefront also offers massive discounts across all packages:

For V2 of the Brand Dashboard, we will include a “wins” tab, where staff members upload campaign wins such as trending mentions/milestones/data from their stories and ad placements, and in-app direct messaging, where staff can help clients answer any questions or report on campaigns’ progress.

Impact of the Recession and Ongoing Conflicts

It is undeniable that our target customers - companies in the emerging tech space - have been feeling the brunt of the recession. We did have a number of large and well funded technology customers renege or drastically alter agreements and upcoming plans, citing layoffs and budget cuts.

BUT, we remain profitable and have more time on hand to clean house, tightening our process to be the go-to publishing platforms for every single tech company out there. Revenue-wise, we are profitable YTD and still project to sizably increase our 2022 total revenue for the 7th year in a row.

📈 Editorial

Feature: HackerNoon’s Top Contributors Nesha Todorovic’s report on a sneaky change in Upwork’s T&C that nobody seemed to notice.

Our editorial team is hard at work improving our output and juggling multiple initiatives to recruit new writers and stories into the HackerNoon community. HackerNoon is ramping our human editorial team of subject matter experts, building automations and productivity tools into our editorial process and workflow..

The Second Human Rule

Story Publishing Experiments

Reader Relationship Growth

Until next time we are Slogging (now live in Slack App Store) along, vote Noonies, and treat your internet friends with respect.

HackerNoon COO Linh Dao Smooke & CEO David Smooke