How We Manage Editorial At Hacker Noon


At Hacker Noon‘s first All-Hands company meeting for 2020, CPO Dane Lyons introduced the team to the concept of a North Star Metric. Since the term is pretty self-explanatory, I’ll get straight to the story of how we’re using this framework to prioritize activity.

Hacker Noon’s North Star Metric is Reading Time.

What good is getting published on one of the world’s biggest independent tech sites if nobody’s taking the time to read your work?

The inverse also holds true—how credible is the claim to being one of world’s biggest tech sites if the majority of your audience isn’t getting real value from the content you’re publishing?

There Are Multiple Categories Of Inputs With The Potential To Move The North Star Metric.

If our critical number is Total Reading Time on Hacker Noon, we know from experience that there are X number of inputs (see WIP sketch above) likely move this metric, e.g.:

  • Total Words Published Per Week
    [ input category: New Content – controlled largely by our community of over 10k+ contributing writers ]
  • Reader Actions Taken Per Session
    [ input category: Reading Experience – influenced by brand, partner, and editorial teams; ultimately the product team’s jurisdiction ]
  • Daily Shares on Twitter
    [ input category: Distribution – the Editorial Team’s key area of influence ]

Improving Hacker Noon’s reading experience is one of the ways our Product Team influences reading time.

When it comes to influencing Hacker Noon’s North Star Metric, The Editorial Team has the most manoeuvrability and influence within the input category of Distribution.

Any Team Member Can ‘Bet’ On An Input Within Any Category, In The Hopes of Moving The North Star Metric

So, for example: as managing editor, I make a daily bet that the more stories I review, copyedit, improve, optimize, and distribute, the more time people will spend reading stories on Hacker Noon.

  • What’s your team’s North Star Metric?
  • Which kinds of inputs and activities are known to move the needle on that metric?
  • What are the bets you can take in your role today to have an impact on that metric tomorrow?
Longer term, I’m currently betting on inputs like improving our user on-boarding experience with stellar app emails, and the growth of Hacker Noon’s Instagram following as an input with the potential to become a key content distribution channel and traffic source for us.
(We’re pretty late to the game, but bootstrapping, in a sense; trying to work smart and not hard to find out how many legitimate, engaged followers it’s possible to gain with only intelligent content; so far, spending zero cash or ads or bots.)

More On How Content Distribution Works At Hacker Noon

When you publish a story on Hacker Noon, a number of Content Distribution levers get pulled to make sure your story has the best chance of being seen by someone who might actually GAF about your POV—as soon as robotically possible.

  1. Your story gets published on at eight bonus hackernoon.com pages; one for each of the 8 SEO tags added.
  2. Your story gets automatically tweeted to over 53k+ Hacker Noon followers.
  3. Your story has fair opportunity to get featured in a newsletter and/or on the homepage on hackernoon.com, for 200k+ daily visitors to enjoy.

Our goal, as a team, is:

Better Distribution for Every Story.

  1. The Noon Notification
  2. Thematic Letters
  3. Product Updates
  4. App Emails

On The 2020 Roadmap For Hacker Noon’s Editorial Team

Product ➕Editorial = 💚

Dane, Austin, Storm, and Mark are placing bets big and small to improve Hacker Noon’s reading experience every day. Our #progress channel reads like a PR party from the future of online publishing. Austin and I are looking forward to co-authoring regular product updates to tell the story of what we decided to work on and how it went for those two weeks (or whatever time range we decide on).

The Hacker Noon Contributor Development Program

I̶n̶ ̶2̶0̶2̶0̶,̶ ̶ This week, we’re being more proactive about reaching to our to top writers, to make sure they’re aware of:

  • Our standing offer of free and qualified editorial support from post conceptualization and copyediting, right through to publishing and distribution.
  • The value of regularly publishing on Hacker Noon, not only for the potential readership from our monthly audience of 4M+ technologists, but also for the opportunity to contribute to an open, non-toxic community of dev tutorials; build your products in public; and contribute to interesting and important conversations about the future.
  • The opportunity to opt-in for more formal, email-newsletter-based support coming soon—writing prompts, inspiration from writing around the web, that kinda thing.

Better Brand Storytelling

Working closely with our VP of Business Development, Utsav Jaiswal, Editorial will ramp up support for our Brand-As-Author program to ensure only the best branded content gets published on Hacker Noon.

Our editorial support for Brands-As-Authors is one of a few ways Hacker Noon is proving that staying sustainable in publishing today need not necessitate making people pay to read content, or employing aggressively intrusive on-site advertising strategies.

So, that covers strategy and vision. A few final housekeeping notes around the weekly/daily habits of an adequately effective editorial team:

On Finding The Ideal Editorial Team Meeting Rhythm

Why U No Meeting-Free-Monday?

I loathe a Monday meeting. I mean, I loathe a meeting in general like any card-carrying millennial my age, but in particular, I find meetings on Mondays (or Fridays—unless of the fun / brainstormy / retrospective / beer-fuelled variety) completely counter-productive.

If “all happiness depended on a leisurely breakfast” in the 20th century, all happiness today surely depends on a pro-choice attitude towards your (hopefully—by now—at least partially free-range) employees‘ decisions to greet a new week on their own time, and acquaint themselves with its key priorities at their own pace.

We meet weekly on Tuesdays, now. It works. Across four timezones, somehow. We learned the thing about Mondays last year.

What Mondays Are For, According to Hacker Noon

Also: writing.

On Learning To Talk About The Right Things In Editorial Meetings

You might be surprised to learn that with the plethora of freemium tools available out there for managing collaboration, workflow, and project deadlines, we’re currently getting the most value from this hacked-in-five-meetings Google Sheets template:

It’s insane to think that when myself and Utsav started at Hacker Noon in early 2019, it was David and Linh—and, on most days, only David and Linh—managing the entire editorial process: engaging a community of writers in the thousands; publishing enough stories a day (and making them quality enough) to sustain a monthly audience of 4M+ and a top 3k Alexa ranking, sending newsletters… All while nailing CEO’ing and COO’ing and fundraising and parenting (the most articulate and sunshiney smol human on this planet rn, fyi) on the side.

We’re all pretty excited to be alive and a part of this team in 2020, and we hope you are too. If reading this sparked any ideas on how we might make Hacker Noon better for you in 2020, please feel free to highlight some text and leave me an annotation or two 🤗



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