The Department of Product


Thursday, 20 April, 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

Hello product people 👋,

Context switching is the silent killer of productivity but a new product is generating quite the buzz this week. Rize has been described by some as ‘Superhuman for productivity’ and from what we’ve seen, it’s pretty impressive. A native app that works on Mac and Windows, Rize automatically tracks and categorizes all of your work activities into beautifully designed dashboards. It also tells you which tools are your top interrupters (no prizes for guessing that Slack ranks high amongst them!). 

Other tools on our radar this week include a new product analytics platform called Pocus. At a time when revenue generation trumps pretty much everything else, Pocus describes itself as the ‘Revenue Data Platform’. Here’s how it works: the tool combines product usage and customer data to create ‘product-qualified accounts’ known as PQAs who have the highest likelihood to convert. Pocus then pings the relevant people in Slack or via email with a list of those PQAs. It also allows users to build, test and run automated Playbooks from a shared library and you can check out some of them here.

Earnings season kicked off this week and Netflix was one of the first tech companies to update investors. The company reported revenue growth of 3.7% to $8.1 billion in the quarter and total subscribers rising by 1.75 million. In its letter to shareholders, Netflix warned that its crackdown on shared passwords is likely to negatively hit user engagement in the near term and is delaying its rollout by a quarter.

In other news, Reddit has confirmed that it will start charging for access to its API after discovering that swathes of its data have been used to train large language models. API monetization is often an underutilised revenue generator but the economic climate means product teams are now exploring untapped areas of their product stack as potential cash cows. Twitter recently hiked up its own prices to an eye watering $42,000 per month for access to its APIs, but Microsoft this week announced it won’t pay for them.

If you’re looking for a public list of APIs that you can use in your own product, this resource should help.

This week’s newsletter is brought to you by Finday – a new financial health product for professionals. If your company is looking to ditch perks like massages and instead help employees become more financially healthy, you can join the waitlist here.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

UX – How to design a checkout experience

28% of mobile sites don’t provide a “Zip Code Autodetection” feature (or a “Fully Automatic Address Lookup” feature) — leaving mobile users with more fields to complete during checkout and more potential for errors. (Baymard Institute)


Tools you can use


Skills – How to develop product intuition

Julie Zhuo is the former VP of design at Meta and now co-founder of Inspirit. In this article Julie outlines her ways to develop product intuition. (Julie Zhuo)


Recommended newsletter – Synthetic Mind

Synthetic Mind is a weekly newsletter on the latest developments in artificial intelligence to help you get smarter at your job.


How Figma discovered its product activation metric

“We focused on providing designers with an experience that they’d never had before: a single source of truth to design and work with others. This experience was so important that it ultimately became the core activation metric: collaboration in the same file with someone else within 24 hours. Specifically, editing or commenting in a file after another user edits or comments in a file. Once this happens, we consider both users activated.”

Figma’s first product manager, Badrul Farooqi


Podcast interview – Shopify’s CEO Tobias Lütke

Shopify’s CEO Tobias Lütke on why micromanagement is good. Over an incredible 18 years, Tobi has scaled Shopify to 10% of total US e-commerce, millions of merchants in over 170 countries, and a market cap today of over $60BN.


Technical skillsets

Become more technical – but not an engineer – in just 4 weeks. The new Web Technologies Program – starts w/c 22nd May.💻


🚀 New product features, launches and announcements this week

Amazon Prime Video announces a new AI powered Dialogue Boost feature that will allow users to turn up the volume on specific actor’s voices.

Google is reportedly developing a new AI-powered search engine. According to the New York Times, among the features Google is developing is a chatbot that can answer software engineering questions and generate code snippets.

Instagram will allow users to add up to five links to their account. Linktree’s socials saw the funny side by pointing out that Meta is using Linktree on its own Twitter profile.

Microsoft’s Edge browser is testing a sidebar that you can pin to your desktop – allowing Bing users to access ChatGPT without needing to visit the web.


📈 Product insights and trends to stay informed

Retention for SaaS products is getting harder. In 2022, more than half of SaaS businesses had lower retention rates year on year than the previous year. Smaller SaaS companies with ARR of <$300k are hit far less than larger SaaS companies with $15 – 30m ARR.

The US tech magazine industry is officially dead with the final publication of the last two print computer magazines. 

Mobile ad revenue now accounts for 73.5% of the total digital advertising revenue.

Global fintech funding totalled $15 billion in the first quarter of this year, up 55% from the fourth quarter. The catch? $6.5 billion of that was Stripe.

Nearly 45% of millennials have “churned and returned”, cancelling a paid subscription only to renew that same subscription within a six-month period, according to a fascinating new report by Deloitte. 

🧠💰How to increase revenue in a downturn

With Reddit’s announcement that it’s planning to charge for access to its APIs and Twitter doing the same, revenue generation is more important than ever for digital product teams, often a mindset shift towards more commercial-oriented thinking is needed. 

Here’s 3 ways to get your organisation to think more commercially:

  1. Run commercial hackathon – a commercial spin on an engineering favorite. Ask your teams to come up with 5 new ways to commercialise aspects of your business. Involve everyone – including engineering teams (they may a little hesitant!) – and see what results you get.

  2. Explore the commercialisation of your internal tech stack – if you find your internal tools valuable, explore the possibility that external parties may do too. AWS started as an internal tool. Ideate ways to monetize the tech stacks you already have.

  3. Link roadmaps to revenue – when putting together your company’s product roadmap, link some of the priorities on the roadmap to revenue-based goals to be crystal clear what’s potentially revenue generating and what’s not.

Other industry news in brief

Ecommerce brands are killing their metaverse experiments.

Spotify is losing its audiobooks chief as the streaming company struggles in the market.

Military execs have told the US congress a pause to AI is ‘close to impossible’.

Snap’s CEO says he’d ‘love’ a TikTok ban.

A cityscape of San Francisco and London hand drawn in color in the style of Quentin Blake
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Product Briefing – October 5, 2023

Google Docs’ new competitor, AI wars, App industry benchmarks
Plus: Airbnb’s ML patent, DoorDash’s swipe for restaurants and Uber expands to returns

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