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Ask HN: How can I make Hacker Newsletter better?
47 points by duck 1653 days ago | hide | past | web | 44 comments | favorite
Last year I doubled the subscriber count for Hacker Newsletter[0] to 14,000 and my goal for 2013 is to double it again. To accomplish that, I have several ideas I'm working on, but thought I would check here as well since the newsletter exists because of this community.

If you already are a subscriber, I would love to know how I could make it better and if you're not, is there anything I could do that would make you sign-up and check it out?


[0]: http://hackernewsletter.com

Be sure to keep hilarious endorsements like

"Hacker Newsletter is great. It's reduced the time I spend on Hacker News from several times per hour to several times per hour plus the weekly newsletter." -Jason Seifer, Founder of Scheduling, Host of The Ruby Show

That's what just convinced me to sign up.

AFTER EDIT: And now that I have signed up, the usability suggestion I have for the archived issues is to make sure that each issue in the archive links to the previous issue, and all but the most recent issue in the archive links to the next issue. That's the expected browsing capability on most permalinks.

VERY IMPORTANT: Style the archives links to distinguish visited from unvisited links.


Thanks! I like to add some humor to everything, and Jason probably nailed it perfectly with that testimonial.

Regarding the archives, yeah, they need some work. They are currently hosted on MailChimp, but looking to bringing up my own archive so I can control things like that and maybe add some other features.

Kale - this has had fantastic value for me and saves me a lot of time.

I agree with sazary that a line or two editorial about each link (similar to how Peter Cooper does it) would add even more value. Perhaps not necessary for all links - that could get overwhelming - but maybe for a few of your top recommended links.

Can you ad one article of original content (as in original to the newsletter)? Something like an email interview from a founder, hacker, or person of interest. It would be very nice. Also, on my newsletters, I've found that adding something not related to the subject at hand keeps it fresh. I sometimes link a funny youtube video, and have even included a lolcat. Makes people want to see what I'm doing next. If you want to chat about newsletters and stuff, feel free to email me (on profile). Note: I have been publishing newsletters since the dawn of time. In fact, dinosaurs knew they were going to be extinct because my newsletter "News-O-Saurus" told them about the meteor impact. Too bad those dumb lizards didn't know how to read. :)

Clickable: http://hackernewsletter.com/

You can also check out the last 131 issues from the bottom of that page.

Mine the comments. I typically get more information there, and you'd save everyone from engaging in "OMG! Someone is WRONG on the Internet!"

Hell, you could have a full newsletter: "Best of patio11 Weekly" :-)

For what it's worth I think it serves my purposes very well. I would suggest being mindful of trying to add features that could ultimately clutter it.

I love the categories you put submissions into; one way to both provide a helpful feature to subscribers as well as prevent them receiving too much information that they're not interested in (clutter) would be to select specific categories you wish to receive a newsletter for when you sign up your email. Modularization is good.

I just signed up, and I gotta give it to you that the look and layout of your site is very very nice :) Everything is very clear and from my five minutes of browsing the archives I cant personally find a single thing to criticize.

I read in other comments here that it´d be great to have a summary for each link. But I imagine that would be tedious and time consuming. Personally I think the titles of the links do just fine :)

kale, you seem pretty awesome by the way. and i'd say hacker newsletter is as well. feels exceptionally well put together and i appreciate you not cluttering it with ads (though i do enjoy the often cleverly delivered one that is there); hope the effort’s been paying-off for you.

and i’m hard pressed to come-up with feedback for the content or structure of the newsletter itself, but (and this, understandably, may be taking things in a direction your wholly uninterested in) i’ve always thought it’d be nice to have this content delivered as an app.. in addition to offering an alternative way to monetize (i’d gladly pay for it), i think it could really enhance the user experience, particularly on mobile devices. some user-specific benefits i could see from such an approach:

- open story links within the app (rather than switching between email and browser)

- better comment viewing experience (viewing hn on mobile generally sucks)

- direct access to all archived issues (would be nice)

thinking about it, and considering all the work that would have to be put in, it could make for a great mobile hn reader (integrated newsletter for highlights + mobile-optimized hn access for staying current).


also just want to add, that your wayback letter [1] is beyond awesome! it’s really cool being able to step back at various intervals in time and see what was going on. i find it pretty funny seeing what was in-focus as recent as a month ago, and actually quite insightful reaching back a few years. as i said, beyond awesome and very well put together, encourage people to check it out.

[1] http://www.waybackletter.com/

it seems that you yourself read articles that are in the email. so i think writing just a few lines that describes every link is a good idea. Dave Pell is doing a good job about this in NextDraft.

also points and number of comments are important things to be included in email, but they may clutter it. personally i prefer them to be there.

and the classics part is really good ;)

Thanks, and yes, I've gotten several requests for summaries. I tried doing that before, but I didn't like the results... but I might give that another try. You can hover over the title to get the points & # of comments.

If you like the classics, you'll probably enjoy my other newsletter as well - http://waybackletter.com.

I'm giving the newsletter a shot. As far as summaries, I can see how it could clutter the flow, maybe there is a way to put them out of the way of the main flow? Optional hover? It's a great place to expose a bit more 'curation' value if it can be done without causing problems.

I would also mention, one huge reason I use hacker news is for the comments. If the summary could just mention a couple major topics of discussion, e.g. the 'good stuff' it would make a summary useful to me there as well.

More broadly, I noticed that all your links are the articles, with companion comments. You do have a few 'ask HN' and similar thread posts, but perhaps consider highlighting those occasional remarkable discussion threads on their own, or quoting excellent posts. I've saved more than a few HN comments myself, and a couple great quotes at the end could be a nice 'wrap-up' and bring some of the community discussion feel to the format.

Actually, there usually is a "Ask HN" section... but if there isn't any good ones or if they end up in other sections then it doesn't show. It is funny, at the beginning there use to be tons of them and then over the last year those started to thin out, but that seems to be reversing again here of late (which is good!).

Is there a way to do an optional hover in email? You can't pass js

I just signed for it, so I guess that asking how you can improve it actually improves it (in a user growth way).

That would suggest that additionally publicity would help. So I suppose convenient features to "share this" or "post this to twitter" might help growth. But it;s already an email (super easy to forward), and that wouldn't add value to the original recipient.

Kale - your newsletter really save me time. Personally, I would love to see a selection of stories that _aren't_ so popular. I commonly comb through the list of new articles that are a bit outside the box. They usually talk about human nature, knowledge crossing domains etc.

Keep up the good work!

I actually prefer the Wayback Letter (most things I see in HNL I've already seen on HN proper), but it frequently goes through spurts of not happening. I realize that you're a busy man and that, for example, having a new child is more important than sending out the day's Wayback Letter. But it'd be nice to have some sort of status indicator--if you anticipate an "outage", let us know ahead of time, or if you don't it'd be great to have an email or website that just said, "There's stuff going on in my life, expect the next few days to be canceled."

Kale - I'm a subscriber and I think it's great in its current format. Outside of postings on Hacker News, how are you advertising its existence?

What is it written in/how does it work code-wise? Also, would you run another version/flavor for a subtopic like visualization?

He also publishes a version called the Wayback Letter, a look at the most popular topics of years and months past: http://www.waybackletter.com/

I wrote a custom Ruby/Sinatra app that helps me build it out each week and use that to hand-pick each article. The app scraps HN (although I'm about to convert it over to using the hnsearch api I think) and allows me to filter all the links each week in various ways. I then use MailChimp (and it's great api) to send it out each Friday.

I'm working on making the app more generic in terms of the source and I have a couple other topics that I want to do, but just haven't had the time to finish yet. Look for another one in a month or so though.

Hey Kale, why don't you put a Gittip[0] button in the newsletter? That could get you some funding so you can keep doing what you're doing. Pycoders Weekly[1] is currently doing this too.

[0]: http://www.gittip.com/

[1]: https://www.gittip.com/PycodersWeekly/

Just wanted to say thank you for the hacker newsletter! It's a huge time saver by being able to visit HN less often while shaking that feeling of missing out.

That said, I still have this compulsion of clicking open more links than I have time for. Any thoughts on a Hacker Newsletter Lite?

Havent thought either of these to implementation: 1. If you could somehow add a humorous one line caption to each post. 2. ranking? ..linux article with 100 votes trumps web article with 400 votes. Adaptive ranking based on my click through would be boss too.

Since your asking for feedback, I was wondering if I may have my own feedback being I am a start up as well. You have tons of reviews on your site. Did you ask for all those reviews or did they just come organically?

Thank you!

Several of them I got without asking and that prompted me to ask a couple more folks for them. I think the best advise is to just ask individuals for them.

Did you build the readership organically entirely from HN? Were there other sources from which folks signed up?

Also have you considered some kind of daily edition? Or might that be considered overkill?

I believe at one point he said he got a lot of subscribers from a cross-promotion with the Now I Know newsletter (http://nowiknow.com/). I'm not sure if he has done this with other newsletters.

For daily content, I recommend http://dailyhn.com/. It provides a list of top daily stories with automatically-generated digests. The digests are of decent quality, but I just use it as a daily top ten list.

Cool. Thanks for sharing. I'm wrestling with the daily/weekly question myself as I'm starting to publish my own newsletter. My own instincts run counter to wanting to receive an e-mail blast daily no matter how relevant it is. But I'm not sure whether others feel the same. Think I'll ultimately experiment with both to see if I can find a sweet spot.

Hard to say: lots of great and popular newsletters use both the daily and weekly models. You could offer the choice on signup I suppose.

Mainly from HN and other newsletters, but it was also mentioned on Smashing Magazine and a couple other popular blogs.

I have thought about a daily edition, but after doing some surveys it didn't seem worth the effort as there wasn't much interest in it.

One major niggle on HN is that there will be 5-10 posts on the front page discussing the same topic. A very condensed end-of-day summary of the events that were interesting (as well as the related topics) would definitely be a nice addition.

An interview with popular HN users will be awesome. I often find myself looking up profiles of people who've left interesting comments/submissions to see the stuff they're working on.

Is there a preview available somewhere? I am looking for a way to read HN on my Kindle.

Nevermind, found the archive at the very bottom of the page. I guess it won't work for Kindle, though.

There's a newsletter?

Seriously, that is my response. Never knew one existed before this post. Perhaps marketing should be a goal.

You can clear the subscribe box on focus rather than just on click.

* ability to delete account

* ability to delete comments

* ability to edit comments after a month

Do you monetize this in any way, or are you planning to?

I run a single ad pretty much every issue, mainly served up by the great people at LaunchBit. That works well, but I'm looking into some other addition ways to monetize it just so I can fund more projects that I want to do. :)

Info on upcoming regional HN meetups might be cool

Do you allow advertising?

Yep, I direct people to http://lauchbit.com if they want to advertise.

How many new sign ups did this post get you? :)

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