Recently, Product Hunt shut down Sip, their project that covered breaking news in the tech industry in a bite-size, tap-to-go-next format similar to that of Instagram, Snap, Facebook, and WhatsApp stories. Although Sip slowly built up a large userbase of over 100k unique monthly users, Ryan Hoover and Product Hunt quietly discontinued the app in early 2019 and new stories immediately stopped populating the app—read on to find out why.
In essence, Sip entered the "tech news" field at an awkward time. They had to compete for attention against early-morning email newsletters, constantly-updated Twitter and Facebook feeds, and other channels to essentially be relevant and because their strategy was releasing silent daily notifications at 5 pm, this effort was much more difficult. It would be redundant to read news as it broke on Twitter, for example, and then get another report on it on Sip—people wouldn't be inclined to check a news app for things they've already classified as old.
On top of this, Sip's newsletters tapped into the ever-shortening attention span and inclination to quickly-digestible content by condensing long articles down into single sentences to describe the public release and context behind a new product, funding round, etc. Although truly ambitious, I believe that this posed a difficulty as well in that generally, with news reports in the tech industry, I like to read longer articles that go into depth about previous funding rounds, startups doing similar things, etc. and having a model that relies deeply on being able to digest tech news quickly goes against this form of longer reads.
Finally, Sip made a major mistake in the growth hacking of their userbase. Detailed by Ryan Hoover in his post-mortem of Sip, the team utilized Product Hunt's traffic and platform to drive users to them—essentially "cannibalizing" on their own traffic. Generating, managing, and retaining traffic on both platforms proved to be too difficult to continue and soon, Sip quietly shut down. It was an ambitious project that entered a deep pool of big fish armed with a fresh take on content delivery, but went too fast for its own good and eventually sunk to the bottom.
Sip reminds me of what Snapchat is trying to do with its "For You" section. Tappable, bite-size news articles and blogs hosted on an app for mobile reading. Snapchat's app also supports an in-app reader for articles on Bloomberg or NBC and also fits in ads between news stories. Although I don't personally use the section, I believe Snapchat's version works better because of the broad range of topics that make it onto the app—my current feed spans meme pages, Fortnite news, stories from Snapchat influencers, a man injecting oil into his arms to get gigantic biceps, and everything in between. It also seems like Snapchat outsources/sells positions on this newsfeed for meme pages and media companies to advertise their content, so it would also be less work for Snapchat to manage this and instead, focus their energy on launching implicit disses to other social media channels.
I think that in the case of Sip, they definitely could have taken a better approach to what they could've become. Putting aside that the idea in the beginning was reporting on breaking tech news (too many people already do this), Sip could've become a discovery platform for Product Hunt and an extension of their newsletter. Instead of embedding advertisements to Top Hunts at the bottom of their reports, Sip could've become a quick digestible source of hunting the next great thing for your iPhone—it'd be a curated list of the top iPhone apps creators launched on Product Hunt that day/week and would implement a "swipe up" feature to allow users to immediately download it on their phone and test it out! On top of this, I believe tech has glorified the idea of "moving fast and breaking things" to the point that it is a little bit unhealthy. In Sip's case, taking a step back and finding a better way to garner app adoption would've given it a little bit more of a fighting chance.
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This article was written by Brandon Handoko. You can forward any edits or reactions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.