“We didn’t want to create another app thirsty for attention” writes Product Hunt CEO Ryan Hoover. So instead of a constant stream of fresh stories and alerts, Product Hunt today is releasing what’s essentially a tech industry newsletter in iOS and Android form. Sip distills the day’s big headlines into a set of Twitter Moments-esque slideshows delivered via silent notification at 5pm.
Combining explanations, commentary tweets, links to news outlets, Product Hunt pages, and polls, Sip offers a bite-sized alternative to long-winded articles. Skewing trendy, not wonky, you’ll find Sip highlighting 2018’s most innovative companies, Elon Musk selling flamethrowers, or Uber’s new bus killer.
“Our ultimate goal is to create an experience people want to come back to every day that might appeal to those that don’t already use Product Hunt” Hoover explains. It’s essentially a user growth play, rather than a revenue driver for the startup bought by AngelList for around $20 million in 2016. “As I shared earlier in the year with the community, we’re aiming toward profitability and have made some great progress through various initiatives, but Sip is not one of them. We don’t have plans to monetize Sip in the short term as we focus on growing its user base.”
With Facebook purposefully reducing the amount of news surfaced by its feed, Twitter full of bots and trolls, and Google Reader gone, people need better ways of keeping up with the world. Like Reddit, Hoover sees Product Hunt as a community first, though one that “has always played a role in delivering news”.
Doubling down here could unlock new demographics. Not everyone gravitates towards the site to discover the latest beta tests, hackathon projects, Chrome extensions, and fledgling startups. But the top stories about tech’s titans, our social media society, and the hottest new apps have become must-read news for many. Sip could become their gateway into the fold than trying to dig news out of the Q&A on a Product Hunt page.
“Sip is an experiment” Hoover tells me. “The app was designed and built by Chad on our team to give us an opportunity to surface different types of content and stories that wouldn’t necessarily inside Product Hunt today.” Sip already has 3000 people signed up for its beta. The app will have to compete with traditional tech sites and their emails, the constant flow of Twitter and other social apps, various newsletters like Hacker Noon, and reader apps like Feedly and Flipboard. But Sip is set apart by boiling down the news into snackable nuggets.
Product Hunt needs to continue finding ways to engage the younger, scrappier techies at the core of its audience. Launched in 2013 as a newsletter, the startup’s buzz peaked in 2014 and 2015 after it raised a $7 million round led by Andreessen and was accepted into Y Combinator. Its parties in San Francisco became legendary, drawing over 1000 people with a line around the block. These were the heady days of mobile, when tech was still an underdog to some degree and the backlash about its ills had yet to surge.
After years of the crowd-ranking daily product launches on its site, fatigue seems to have set in since AngelList bought Product Hunt. While well-aligned, Product Hunt lost some of its cool by joining up with more dignified tech adults. Last year it launched Ship for helping startups release their products, and an Ask Product Hunt recommendations feature. Hoover even debuted his own $3 million Weekend Fund. Yet Product Hunt’s luster has waned. Though in a much glitzier venue, this winter’s Product Hunt party saw no line out the door. They weren’t even checking RSVPs.
The next generation of Product Hunters might not be as religiously bound to their phones, delighted by a non-stop barrage of alerts. Instead, they seem to value an undistracted sense of flow and more mindful tech usage. Sip could appeal to them. “My phone is often warm with alerts” says Hoover. “Many app creators overwhelm their users with numerous push notifications throughout the day or even unwelcome text messages. We don’t want Sip to add to the clutter.”