Saturday, 27 April 2013

Getting Early Users: The Hacker News vs. Reddit vs. BetaList Launch-off


  • Getting users - BetaList
  • Getting feedback - HN
  • Average on Both - Reddit

Recently, I stagger-launched SubIntent on three sites where I thought my potential users will be lurking around. SubIntent automatically optimized landing pages and web applications to improve conversion rates using machine learning. So, the target market was pretty clear. Do you develop web apps? If the answer is yes, SubIntent is for you. This is helpful in deciding locations to launch at.

This is what happened. Hope this helps someone. Goes without saying, your mileage may vary. This is not a scientific analysis with elegant deductions from data. Imagine a needle trembling between conjecture and analysis and you're pretty much seeing this correctly.

Launch 1 - Reddit

The great thing about Reddit is that users identify their interests by hanging around certain sub-reddits. I decided to launch SubIntent on specific niches where I thought developers who would find SubIntent useful would congregate:

As you can see, Reddit naturally lends itself to the link submission equivalent of long-tail keywords; something that I used to the hilt.

Launch 2 - BetaList

BetaList, if you don't already know, is a site dedicated to curating the latest beta web app launches. Unlike Reddit, one does not just simply list on BetaList. The only advice I can offer you after multiple submission attempts of my previous web applications is to be interesting, different and relevant. If you're just a cookie cutter social network for people who like music, you're going to get nowhere. On BetaList, you get exposure on their website, get tweeted out to their ~12K followers and also get sent out on the email newsletter. The only downside is that your time on the frontpage is 1 day. You're in the archives after that. People can find you. But, you're just not in their face.

Launch 3 - Hacker News:

Hacker News is the news/link/discussion watering hole for hackers of all stripes hosted by YCombinator. There is a strong appreciation of technical expertise and finesse here. Link submissions that are deemed technically interesting, controversial or just plain geek cool get upvoted. This is not the place for a web application that has no technical content inside it. My in (or so I thought) was using machine learning for improving conversion funnels; something I thought HN would find cool.

The Results are In

From my experience, here's the ranking of the three:


#1 Hacker News (10x  over #2)
#2 BetaList (2x over #3)
#3 Reddit

SubIntent had reasonable quality time on the HN front page so I got some serious traffic from HN. BetaList was second in terms of traffic but very high-quality as you shall see in the next section. Due to my strategy of listing on sub-reddits, Reddit came in last.

#1 BetaList (2x over #2)
#2 Reddit (2x over #3)
#3 Hacker News

Traffic is good but conversions are better. In my case, the conversions were quite literally the opposite of traffic. The clear and ahead winner here is BetaList. I attribute this to the audience collected by BetaList over its lifetime and the quality standards they maintain. I also have a sneaking suspicion that web developers like to keep tabs on new web app launches on BetaList and this could have contributed to my conversion rates. My strategy of targeting specific niches was working well with Reddit with good conversion rates. The really surprising item here was the lower rate for Hacker News. My conjecture is that my submission title indicating a technical article rather than a web-app so it led to a lot of drop-offs. Of the others who stayed on, HNers were more interested in the technical details than just signing up (I told you - technical, technical, technical). I attribute my upvotes to this phenomenon.


#1 Hacker
#2 Reddit
#3 BetaList

Here HN is the clear winner. One of the strengths of the HN community is that they're not so much about signing up as much as critiquing your web application, offering feedback and generally discussing its technical merits. I chalk this up to the YC heritage. You can see the discussion here. There was some good feedback and questions from Reddit as well. To be fair, BetaList is about discovering new web applications so any feedback will come to you directly.

Do you have a web app?
SubIntent can optimize your landing pages for improved conversion rates.

Using machine learning techniques, SubIntent will optimize your landing pages for maximum conversions and click-throughs. See how.


  1. How did you find moderation on Reddit? You can sometimes get "sent to Coventry" (look it up), which is a real pain.

    Any change of sharing real figures? That would be very interesting!

    1. Coventry is my hometown. r/startups especially.

      Can't share real figures at this time but sometime after I'm well into production perhaps.


  2. A lot of these types of networks are great for niche topics, but overall I still see brands focusing more on larger mainstream networks like Facebook and Twitter. The mere fact that there are hundreds of companies listed at BuyFacebookFansReviews alone that focus on Facebook and Twitter illustrates this better than anything. I'm not suggesting that Reddit or Hacker News or other networks aren't valuable (they're filled with influencers) but for mass market appeal I think the market illustrates who is still the king.

  3. Thanks, this is very informative and i think it's a very useful tips. I admire the time and effort you put into your well-detailed nice blog. I hope to see more of your write ups. Keep it up!!!


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