The Department of Product


Thursday, 19 October, 2023

Netflix’s $8 billion quarter, Figma in limbo, Synthetic UX research. Plus: YouTube’s major release, a new way to manage your calendar, the Web Technologies Report 2023

Hi product people 👋,

Netflix has shaken off concerns about the viability of its ad-funded model by posting impressive earnings for the quarter. The company added a massive 8.76 million global subscribers with revenues of $8.54 billion, up 7.8% year on year. The earnings vindicates Netflix’s decision to clamp down on account sharing and the launch of its ad-funded tier which now accounts for 30% of all new sign ups. For product teams, the success of Netflix’s ad-funded model shows that for specific product categories, introducing an ad-funded tier may not be the bug bear we think it is. With Instacart, Uber and others all tapping into ad-funded revenue streams, it’ll be interesting to see who follows suit.

Despite strong engagement, though, the company can’t quite claim to be the most watched streaming service in the US; that title still belongs to YouTube which accounts for 9.0% of all US streaming screen time.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking to test product ideas but are struggling to recruit participants, a new startup has you covered. Synthetic Humans is designed for product teams to conduct market research and takes LLMs to the next level by allowing AI bots to chat to each other. The product creates synthetic focus groups, tailored to your niche and allows UX researchers to set a topic for discussion which can then be monitored. The groups can contain a blend of synthetic and real humans and the researchers at Stanford who developed the models powering the tool say the interaction between humans and AI bots has been ‘fascinating’.

In other news, Adobe’s acquisition of Figma is reportedly stuck in limbo due to regulatory challenges and this week the company made no mention of it at its annual conference in Los Angeles. Instead, the star of the show was the new generative AI tools the company is building. For a full rundown on everything that was announced you can watch the Keynote event here.

Finally, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with meetings and would like to take some time to manage your time and conduct a calendar ‘health check’ this new product could help.

Enjoy the rest of your week!


Essential reads for product teams

New from the Department of Product Substack this week:

  • 📈Chartpack: Web Technologies used in product development Q4 2023
    What are the most popular programming languages, databases and new technologies that power the web? This Chartpack is designed to help you to stay up to date with the shape of the web in 2023 so that you can make stronger strategic technical decisions.

  • DOP Deep – Exploring the loneliness economy
    How harmful is loneliness, what’s causing it and what can product teams do about it?

(Department of Product)

UX – Why concept mapping can help clarify your thinking

It sounds simple, but drawing concept maps can be challenging. To start, the idea of “concepts” is somewhat abstract. What is a “concept” will vary from one scenario to another. (Hey Designer)

Free resource — How to use SMS to elevate your product’s customer engagement

Sending alerts and notifications via SMS lets you share important information quickly and gives you higher open rates and wider reach than other channels. Partnering with a reliable SMS API provider can help you reach your customers where they are (their phones!) and elevate your customer engagement. Download the free SMS Notifications Best Practices Guide to get started. (Plivo)

Case studies – How Meta’s engineers teams automate product deprecation

Meta has developed playbooks describing how to safely deprecate a product. These playbooks describe how to notify people and give them time to download their data, how to disable the product safely, and when to eventually delete the underlying code and data. (Meta Engineering)

Strategy – Top metrics for SaaS companies

Customer Acquisition Cost is what you spend in sales and marketing costs to go out and get a net new customer. CAC Payback Period is a derivative of Customer Acquisition Cost, and spits out the number of months it takes to breakeven on that new customer. (Mostly Metrics)

Tools you can use

  • Find Our View – unite your team around instant user insights

  • Unrevealed – a new tool for product teams to test features before launch

  • – transform Figma designs into code

New product features, launches and announcements this week

YouTube has released a new “You” section as part of a major update. Other new features include the ability to speed up videos by holding down the video with a finger press, bigger thumbnails to help with navigation and haptic feedback that vibrates in certain situations. In a blog post outlining the changes, YouTube’s director of product management, Matthew Darby, says the changes are designed to help users ‘feel more immersed’ whilst watching.

Microsoft’s Copilot has continued its expansion across the company’s product suite. This week it was announced that OneNote was the latest product to get the feature.

X is starting to roll out a new $1 a year subscription in New Zealand and the Philippines. As part of its ‘Not a bot’ initiative, the new subscription will force new accounts to pay $1 a year to ‘verify’ themselves. New users who opt out of subscribing will only be able to take read only actions like reading posts, watching videos and following accounts.

OpenAI has formally launched its internet browser feature in ChatGPT, moving it out of beta. The new feature allows users to browse the web and was first introduced in March before being pulled after it emerged that it was able to access paywalled content.

Chrome has unveiled a major redesign of its browser extension store. The refreshed design now looks similar to a mobile app store.

📈 Product data and trends to stay informed

Meta has removed or marked 795,000 pieces of content since the start of the Hamas / Israel conflict.

The Uber of Asia has seen its valuation drop 70%. Grab Holdings launched in 2012 and its failure is seen as a blow to the Singapore tech scene.

TikTok’s parent company ByteDance reported an operating profit of more than $20 billion as its valuation fell by about 26%, according to analysis by the Wall Street Journal. 

42% of knowledge workers say they typically don’t spend more than an hour on productive work without an interruption. Addressing distractions could boost the US economy by $1.4 trillionFull study on distractions and their economic impact by The Economist.

Product leadership updates in brief

Roblox’s CEO says employees will need to return to the office or they’ll be fired.

Arm’s CEO says the US government’s goal of cutting off Chinese access to sophisticated semiconductors will be difficult.

Telegram’s CEO says the app will continue to host war-related content.

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

Product Briefing – July 27, 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

Product Briefing – July 20, 2023

Microsoft fights AI fatigue and Roblox’s vision for a new economy. Plus: a new tool for task automation, TikTok’s new music app and Google Docs gets a notebook

Product Briefing – July 13, 2023

Gmail and Stripe punish no shows and Twilio’s new API. Plus: YouTube gets screen locks, DeepMind’s CEO talks and a note taking ‘studio for your mind’

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