How Hacker News Generated $1,500 in Monthly Recurring Revenue

Josh Pigford on June 11, 2014

A couple of months ago Baremetrics had an absurd amount of growth, adding $5,000 in new monthly recurring revenue (MRR) for a revenue increase of nearly 80%. $1,500 of that came from Hacker News…which may be the surprise of the century for me.

I mentioned briefly how the content we started publishing in April was a major reason for all the new recurring revenue. Now I’m going to take a look at how one specific piece of content that month played such a huge role.

The Hacker News timeline

On the morning of April 3, I posted “How Retargeting Gets Our SaaS $650 for $6”, which takes a look at how we’ve been using ad retargeting to convert visitors to paying customers.

Shortly there after, the article was posted to Hacker News and roughly 15 minutes later was on the front page.

In the 48 hours after the post was made, we added over $1,200 in new MRR and a few hundred more over the next couple of weeks.

That articles continues to drive new traffic and revenue regularly.

But why? Why did this post resonate so well with a crowd that’s notoriously cynical about everything and rarely converts to actual paying customers?

Why Hacker News converted

Anyone who’s ever had anything on the front page of Hacker News will likely tell you that, with the exception of an influx of traffic, it has no noticeable impact on business. So what made this instance so different?

I think it has to do with the article focusing on businesses and people that actually have money.

Most startup/entrepreneurial content on Hacker News revolves around doing things any startup can take a stab at regardless of the stage of their business. Heck, most people on Hackers News don’t even have an actual business. They’re in some mystical stealth phase that they’ll likely never get out of.

But this particular article was useless to those people. They can’t possibly relate to or even have an opinion on ad retargeting because to do retargeting you have to have money in the bank to spend.

And that’s the kicker here.

The subject matter of the post drove businesses with real money to our site. Which was perfect because businesses with real money pay for solutions to real problems.

It’s not that Hacker News doesn’t have any legitimate business owners that can convert to paying customers, it’s that most of the content that gets posted there targets the wrong people…the “early stage startups” and “wantrepreneurs” with no money who argue about inconsequential things while the real business owners are out building real businesses.

Write for real businesses with real money

There are all sorts of reasons for writing and not everything you write needs to have the goal of converting people to paying customers. But writing without some specific goal can also be a waste of your time, and early on in your business, the last thing you want to do is waste time.

If Hacker News is part of your content marketing (eeewwww) game plan, then you should be intentional about it. Write and focus on providing value for people who actually have money to spend. And no, anyone who says they’re doing anything in “stealth” does not have money.

So, what are you doing to reach new customers with content? Let me know in the comments!

Josh Pigford

Josh is most famous as the founder of Baremetrics. However, long before Baremetrics and until today, Josh has been a maker, builder, and entrepreneur. His career set off in 2003 building a pair of link directories, ReallyDumbStuff and ReallyFunArcade. Before he sold those for profits, he had already started his next set of projects. As a design major, he began consulting on web design projects. That company eventually morphed into Sabotage Media, which has been the shell company for many of his projects since. Some of his biggest projects before Baremetrics were TrackThePack, Deck Foundry, PopSurvey, and Temper. The pain points he experienced as PopSurvey and Temper took off were the reason he created Baremetrics. Currently, he's dedicated to Maybe, the OS for your personal finances.