The Department of Product


Thursday, 27 July, 2023

Shopify's $1600 meetings and Netflix's ad-funded success Plus: a tool to free your mind, how to use developer tools and a summer reading list

Hi product people ūüĎč,

Shopify has estimated that an average meeting at the company costs between $700 and $1600. Earlier this year their CEO announced that the company was to take a hardline approach against meeting-heavy culture. And to raise awareness of the cost of meetings, the company has rolled out a new Chrome extension that employees can add to their browser before booking a meeting.  The extension calculates the cost of a meeting before you book so that participants can assess whether it’s worth booking at all. Unfortunately for us, the extension is currently private but if you want to implement something similar in your own business you can use this tool instead.

Other products we came¬†across this week include a new document creation tool which claims that our minds ‚Äėhave been taken captive‚Äô. And to address this, the beautifully designed¬†MyMind¬†allows you to save, search and create artifacts for everything you want to remember, without the unnecessary distractions of social features and collaboration.

Meanwhile, Spotify¬†earnings¬†impressed this week as the company announced that it now has over 220 million paying customers up 17% year on year and 3 million more than analysts expected. MAUs were also up 27% year on year to 551 million, 21 million more than expected with revenues of 3.2 billion euros, in line with expectations. Product highlights worth knowing about include the rollout of DJ which CEO Daniel Ek called a ‚Äėpersonal favorite‚Äô and the promise of further AI-powered features. Last year the company acquired London-based Sonatic, a startup which specialises in synthetic voice creation from text and a recent patent application by Spotify suggests the company could be planning to use this technology to offer podcast summaries and audiobook narration.

But alongside the earnings, Spotify also announced a hike in prices which coincides with recent similar price increases for other products including Stripe, YouTube Premium, Netflix and Google Workspaces. For a masterclass on how to increase your prices, check out this guide.

Finally, if you’re looking for ways to make your product demos more engaging, this product has you covered. 

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Essential reads for product teams

New this week from the Department of Product Substack:

  • ūü߆ Knowledge Series #4¬†–¬†How to use browser developer tools

    We explore an area that often confuses non-technical tech professionals: browser developer tools. And more importantly, we’ll delve into some of the ways you can practically use browser developer tools in your day to day role.

  • ‚¨áÔłŹDoP Deep¬†–¬†Unpacking Roblox‚Äôs new monetization strategies

    What is Roblox? How does it make money? What are some useful, practical lessons to learn from Roblox’s approach to monetization?

(Department of Product)

UX –¬†How to do usability testing with older adults

Older adults (ages 65+) have unique needs that must be considered when conducting usability tests. Creating a comfortable environment and building trust with your participants is especially important for this demographic that may have less experience when it comes to using technology. (NN Group)


Adam Mosseri is the Head of Instagram, where he is responsible for overseeing the engineering, product, and business teams and leading Meta’s efforts on creators and Reels. 


Tools you can use

  • Herding¬†– a sleek but no frills bookmarking tool that lets you organize your findings in your own structure

  • Sequence¬†– flexible SaaS pricing that changes as you scale

  • Loops¬†– minimalist email sender for modern product teams

  • Undesk¬†– a virtual office and productivity tracker in one


Case study –¬†How Lyft was first to market with CarPlay and Android Auto¬†

Lyft Maps has a relatively small team ‚ÄĒ building for the car required lean development (to start our team just had one engineer per platform). Earliest development began with explorations of the Android Auto and CarPlay framework, working side by side with Google and Apple to better understand feasibility. (Lyft Engineering Blog)

Summer reading list 

A summer reading list of books curated by tech investment firm Andreessen Horowitz. Books include:

  • Stephen King‚Äôs novel¬†Fairytale

  • Investigative journalist Oliver Bullough‚Äôs¬†Moneyland¬†which investigates how the world‚Äôs elite launder money

  • Ryan Holiday‚Äôs¬†Discipline is Destiny¬†on the power of self control

Product stories

Elon has an exceptional talent for tackling hard physics-based problems but products that facilitate human connection and communication require a different type of social-emotional intelligence. –¬†Ex Product Lead Esther Crawford¬†on the ups and downs of her time¬†at Twitter

New product features, launches and announcements this week

Instagram is launching creator subscriptions in Australia, Canada, the UK and more. Subscriptions allow creators to offer their followers paid access to exclusive posts, live streams and more. 

Google is making it easier to add alt text to images used throughout Workspace applications, in a boost to accessibility.  

GitHub¬†has made its Chat AI feature publicly available. In a¬†blog post¬†outlining the new chat feature, GitHub‚Äôs VP of product Mario Rodriguez says the functionality works a lot like ChatGPT for engineering but is ‚Äėcontextually aware‚Äô. First announced back in March, the tool‚Äôs goal is to save developers time by enabling them to execute complex tasks with simple prompts.¬†

Threads has launched a Following tab which shows users a chronological feed of posts from people they follow.

ChatGPT has launched custom instructions which allow users to save presets that will be used in future responses.

Product data and trends to stay informed

Netflix’s ad model seems to be working. Ad funded plans now make up 19% of all new sign ups. The company’s recent earnings showed the crackdown on passwords was boosting new sign ups with 6 million net new accounts but revenues up only 2.7% driven by cheaper ad-funded plans. 

TikTokers are making $7000+ a day by pretending to be non-playable characters (NPCs) from video games and eating digital donuts.

2 billion logged in users are watching YouTube Shorts every month, up from 1.5 billion last year. YouTube’s ad revenues are up 4% year on year to $7.67 billion. 

A Latin American music app has seen its user base double to 13 million monthly active users. Trebel is free so long as users watch ads.

Snapchat is still growing, with 397 million daily active users in the second quarter. The company said it will reach 405 million in the current quarter. But investors weren’t happy. Full earnings report.

Tech leadership updates

X‚Äôs¬†CEO¬†says¬†the new brand is ‚Äėthe future state of unlimited interactivity ‚Äď centered in audio, video, messaging, payments/banking ‚Äď creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunities‚ÄĚ.

Alphabet¬†is¬†promoting¬†chief financial officer Ruth Porat into a new role that will oversee the company‚Äôs ‚ÄúOther Bets‚ÄĚ investments and work more closely with policymakers.

Bolt’s ex-CEO Ryan Breslow is the subject of a new SEC probe into allegations he misled investors.

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Product Briefing – October 19, 2023

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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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