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by Jacob O'Bryant

On the mehness of Yakread's acquisition funnel

For the past month or two I've been focused on improving Yakread's acquisition + onboarding funnel. Only a certain percentage of people who hit your landing page will end up actually using your product regularly, and the higher that percentage is, the more leverage your marketing efforts will have. While there are a bunch of additional features and improvements I'd like to add to Yakread, the top priority has really been just getting that funnel working smoothly—if I can't do that, then I can't justify working on Yakread full-time.

Suffice it to say, the funnel is pretty leaky, and my recent efforts haven't made much of a dent. (Mixed metaphors, sorry... my recent efforts haven't, uh, patched up the leak.) I posted a low-key announcement on the Discord forum about how I've decided to go part-time with Yakread and put most my time into developing my web dev consulting business. I'm highly confident that Yakread will turn into a great business eventually—I'm just not confident that it'll happen soon.

However, as always happens whenever I'm trying to break away from entrepreneurship, I thought of another thing I could try.

(Seriously, don't become an entrepreneur—it's impossible to get out.)

Anyway! I was reflecting on a fork in the road that I discussed previously in TikTok for reading and I'm going to delete most of Yakread's features. To summarize, I was considering two options:

  • Have Yakread present an algorithmic feed of articles to new users right away, probably without even requiring them to sign up first. Users can still customize their feed by subscribing to newsletters and such, but this isn't a required part of onboarding.
  • Don't worry so much about the algorithmic feed, and instead focus purely on the newsletter-reading use-case. Market Yakread towards people who already subscribe to newsletters.

I went with the second option. My reasoning was the standard startup advice is to focus on a niche first and really nail it, then expand later. Developing and emphasizing Yakread's algorithmic feed would allow me to market to a broader audience, but I figured that's not necessarily what I needed to do at the moment. Not only that, my own personal use-case for Yakread is to manage all the newsletter subscriptions that I've already accumulated. So it really seemed like the more reasonable choice.

However—as mentioned above, Yakread's signup and activation rates have really just not been very good. I thought paid newsletter ads would be targeted towards my ideal audience well enough to make the numbers work out, but with the bit of data I have so far, that doesn't seem to be the case. I'm not sure I'm getting much value out of focusing on the niche of people who already subscribe to a bunch of newsletters, but I am paying the cost.

All this is to say that it seems like a good time to now give that "TikTok for reading" thing a shot. I have two main tasks in mind that I'd like to do:

  1. Completely redo Yakread's onboarding funnel again. Don't make people sign up to use the app; just show a feed of articles right away. A bit like Hacker News or any other article aggregator. Any features that require an account (like subscribing to newsletters/RSS feeds) will trigger a sign-up popup whenever a not-logged-in person tries to use them. I'll still try to get people to sign up of course, it just won't be required before people can even try out the app.
  2. Work on the discover algorithm a lot. It doesn't necessarily need to be complex, but I do need to make sure it's good. That'll be the most important part of the app for new users if I go with this strategy.

To phrase this in a different way: I want to turn Yakread into more of an aggregator and then have it ease people in to the idea of subscribing to specific newsletters and customizing their feed, rather then forcing people to do that immediately. If it works, I'll be able to market Yakread effectively and start growing, whether I do that by paid newsletter ads, writing articles for Hacker News, or some other method.

Published 17 Apr 2023

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