The Department of Product


Thursday, 05 January, 2023

Netflix’s ad-funded flop, Shopify starts the year with a controversial company-wide ban, a new tool for user research and webhooks explained for PMs

Thursday, 05 January, 2023
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Hello product people,

Welcome back! 2023 promises to be another jam-packed year full of thought-provoking launches, news and features for product people, so let’s get stuck in.

First up, despite pinning its turnaround strategy on it, Netflix’s new ad-funded tier is reportedly underperforming against expectations. With roughly 80% of the expected audience delivered, the streaming giant is falling short of its ad-supported viewing figures it guaranteed to advertisers and some of them are now being offered refunds as a result. Despite the disappointing start, the company remains committed to its ad-funded model and advertisers are currently being booked for the rest of 2023.

Meanwhile, a return to work inevitably means a return to regular scheduled meetings for many product teams. But that’s no longer the case at Shopify. In a new announcement this week, the company’s CEO Tobi Lutke declared that meetings are a ‘bug’ and that the company had shipped its fix: the cancellation of all recurring meetings with more than two people for the next two weeks. After that, meeting-free Wednesdays will be reinstated and large meetings can only be held during a set six-hour block on Thursdays. The new operating structure comes as Shopify faces a challenging ecommerce landscape and it’ll be interesting to see whether the bold moves inevitably translate into meaningful results later this year.

In other news, according to reports, Microsoft is planning to integrate ChatGPT into its search results. The AI tool has been the talk of the town recently, and much of the commentary has focused on the threat the tool poses to traditional search engines (and product managers). Microsoft is hoping to get on the offensive quickly, with plans to incorporate ChatGPT results into its Bing search. Despite being dwarfed by Google, Bing continues to command a steady 7%-8% market share in the US, with search advertising revenues growing to $8.53 billion in recent years.

If you were gifted a smart home device this year, you’ll no doubt be aware that a new industry standard is now available for smart devices. Matter allows interoperability between devices and one piqued our interest this week. Muiboard is a simple piece of wood designed to equip home owners with a ‘calm’ smart home experience. The wooden board can be used to display various smart stats including local weather reports, calendar events and set timers with uniquely calming displays.

Finally, if you’re looking for ways to boost your productivity, check out this handy tool finder which includes the most popular to do list, calendar and note taking apps.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

PS admissions for the 2023 Web Technologies Program will be closing soon. With over 700 of you already interested in taking part this year, the remaining January spots will go quickly but there’s still time to secure your place.



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Your product briefing


Technical explainers – Webhooks explained for Product Managers

You may have heard your engineers refer to webhooks during a discussion about an upcoming feature and wondered to yourself what your engineers are talking about. Technology skills for product managers aren’t absolutely essential, but they can certainly help make these discussions with your engineering teams easier.

In this post, we’re going to delve into webhooks to figure out what they are, why they’re used and what you need to know as a non-engineer or as a product manager. (Department of Product)


Report – The state of mobile user experience in 2023

For the fifth edition of our mobile-usability report, we conducted several remote and in-person usability-testing studies involving 19 US-based participants who tested 60 sites and applications. We also used findings and observations from a separate study, which was focused on mobile augmented reality. (NN Group)


Recommended reading lists – Short design books for product managers

  1. Envisioning Information, Edward R. Tufte
  2. Laws of UX: Using Psychology to Design Better Products & Services, Jon Yablonski 
  3. Accessibility for Everyone, Laura Kalbag
  4. Simplicity: A Matter of Design, Per Mollerup
  5. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, Steve Krug


New product features – Google’s Waze tests new ‘crash history’ feature

A new beta release of Waze can notify users of dangerous nearby roads based on traffic data while trying not to overwhelm them with alerts. (The Verge)


Skills – How to draw ideas

Great ideas are hard to find. Drawing makes it a lot easier. And fun. How? When ideas are still in their infancy—for example here I am not 100% sure we should go with the pot rings and want to discuss the idea with fellow designers—I recommend a very simple format. (Ralph Ammer)


Tools – UserEvaluation – a new user research tool that uses AI

Unlock the power of artificial intelligence for customer research. Looking for some exciting insights on your research? Want to know what other users found surprising? Or maybe you’re looking to jazz up your product based on some helpful feedback? Our AI Assistant is here to help! Not only can it give you the scoop on what other users thought, but it can also provide some expert tips for your next session. Just ask and let the AI do the rest! (Product Hunt)


Product strategy – Direct to consumer is dying: why it’s time for a new paradigm

To reach customers, brands will need to combine creativity across Web3, social media, online retail, and in-store experiences. (Wired)


Case studies – How Shopify migrated its mobile app to React Native

In 2020, we announced that React Native is the future of mobile at Shopify and since then we’ve been migrating all our native mobile apps to React Native. Since each app is different, there is no single approach that works for all of them. So, we evaluated all the possible options for each app and chose the ones that best suit their needs. (Shopify Engineering Blog)


Tweets worth reading’s PM Bandan on 5 must learn concepts for product builders


Other product news in brief



Product jobs


Senior Product Manager, Teachable (US / remote)

We are looking for a customer obsessed and strategic Senior Product Manager to join our Learning team on our new Community product. The ideal candidate is someone who has a high level of intuition and judgment around user experience and technical architecture to drive successful initiatives. 


Director of Product, Grin (US / remote)

GRIN is a marketing software that enables direct-to-consumer brands to collaborate and manage their relationships with influencers.

All yours, all free. Enter your email to receive your briefing.

Product Briefing – Jun 8, 2023

Apple’s Vision and a new way to predict the future. Plus: Airtable gets percentages, Slack’s revenue struggles and a new feature analytics tool

Product Briefing – Jun 1, 2023

Notion’s new Projects and WeWork gets 3D video calls. Plus: goodbye YouTube Stories, FigJam’s new iPad app and AI natural selection

Product Briefing – May 25, 2023

Adobe unleashes its superpower and NYT takes on Spotify
Plus: a new tool to Rewind your life, Google Docs plays Notion catch up and Coinbase impresses

Product Briefing – May 18th, 2023

DuoLingo’s monetization machine and Google banishes blue links
Plus: Apple’s new voice clones, a new tool for async comms and the demise of Stack Overflow

Product Briefing – May 11th, 2023

Slack’s AI bet and Peloton gets a reality check. Plus: Zapier’s new no-code feature, a new tool for prudent product pricing and how to use Firefly for product design

Product Briefing – May 4th, 2023

Uber’s comeback and Tinder swipes for meetings. Plus: a new Slack thread management tool, how to sound engaging on Zoom and LinkedIn’s new genAI feature.

Product Briefing – April 27th, 2023

Snap’s AI backlash and Gmail gets beautified. Plus: a new tool for improving your writing, Spotify earnings impress and Klarna releases a new human shopping assistant

Product Briefing – April 20th, 2023

Netflix gets cold feet and Reddit flicks the API monetization switch.
Plus: a new tool for distraction free productivity, Shopify’s CEO on micromanagement and how to become more commercial

Product Briefing – April 13th, 2023

Music labels fight AI voice clones and the next big TikTok trend
Plus: a new product to integrate passwordless authentication, user testing gets ML friction detection and Facebook’s 10 year roadmap revisited

Product Briefing – April 6th, 2023

Tinder’s super subscription and goodbye Spotify Live. Plus: a new product to collate feedback, Amazon’s drone woes and a tool for the async-first teams of the future

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