How Lifehacker Blog Holds 6 Million Followers with Tips


    The head and co-owner of the blog Lifehacker, Alexei Ponomar, told Relap how to attract traffic from social networks, make advertising with the hands of the publisher and pay authors for likes.

    We at Relap love to ask. When we are interested in something, we ask you to share your experience.

    What they talked with Alexei:

    • freelancers. Half of the Lifehacker editorial team works on outsourcing the system “more likes - more money”.
    • social network. Why Lifehacker loves Facebook and stopped paying attention to VKontakte.
    • native advertising. Lifehacker releases a lot of good sponsorship material. How to do advertising with the hands of the publisher.
    • organization of work, sprints, sсram, kanban. It is impossible to do everything on time. Why is that?
    • Why do we need a virtual enemy.
    • who to spy on.

    Most Lifehacker texts are outsourced. There are full-time authors, there are freelance ones. How did you distribute them? Who is more, who is less?

    Now in half. Initially, the staff was only a couple of people, the rest worked on outsourcing. They started hiring the staff when they needed guaranteed quality when working with advertisers. All advertising is done only inhouse, we attract freelancers only in exceptional cases. For the same purposes, over time, we had full-time designers, developers, and everyone else. Our company’s business is built around advertising, and this inevitably affects the main product.

    We deliberately do not separate the advertising department from the publisher.

    In fact, they often interfere with each other, because Client projects are always a priority for us: the client pays money and we are obliged to work it out as efficiently as possible.


    How to determine how much one author can write texts for advertisers per month?

    No, we do not plan such indicators, because we do not yet know how to predict the number of projects sold. And the projects themselves can be of varying complexity, everything is built on us with an attentive individual approach to each client. The jam delivery business has some needs in the office, adidas has different needs. There are very difficult cases when a brand comes through five agencies, even the name of which needs to be clarified in a long chain of correspondence and phoning.


    If the editorial staff is busy with advertising, how do you control freelancers?

    We do not control, but motivate. We do not set a plan for the number of written materials and try to create such conditions so that our authors are as autonomous and free as possible. We have a simple and effective reward system. It works like this: each article has a base rate, which is charged to the author immediately after publication.

    The more articles gain likes and comments, the higher the author’s fee.

    Then we summarize all the likes collected by the article for a certain period, convert them according to a simple formula into money, and add them to the base rate. The premium part may be several times higher than the base. Life hacker is quite popular in social networks, so we introduced the maximum earnings threshold - if the article gains 50 thousand likes (what happened), then we will go broke. Okay, we won’t go broke, of course, but the lack of restrictions greatly devalues ​​our relations with the authors.

    This system has been working for years and has influenced all the authors who have been working with us for a long time. They themselves learn to choose sharp and important topics, pack material, write good headlines. Learned to write cool so that people sting like. At the same time, of course, we make sure that we do not slip into clickbiting and yellowness.


    How do you choose what to post on social networks and what not?

    We try to automate the routine as much as possible, so all new articles from us instantly fly through all our channels. The SMM team works separately, which does not allow our communities to turn into a swamp and works to increase the size of communities and their effectiveness for the site. At the same time, we always remember that social networks are primarily distribution channels, they either work for you or are not needed.

    VKontakte almost does not bring us traffic, VK users generally do not like to follow links. At one time, one of them wrote to us - “put the whole article, I won’t follow your links.”

    17 thousand likes on Facebook vs 536 on VK


    In the public VKontakte we tried a lot of things, but it did not lead to anything - it does not grow. Therefore, in the end, we decided not to invest any significant resources in its development. But on Facebook the opposite situation, you publish a link, and the reader goes to the site through it. True, he hurries to read the article and return back to his news feed, but here we are trying to keep it as best we can, for example, recommendations from Relap .


    Distribution of traffic shares from social networks. Blue - Facebook, green - Vkontakte, red - Twitter. Data from Google Analytics for the period August – December 2015


    What is the best for Facebook? Do you have hypotheses?

    Recently on Medusa there was an article “How Facebook Algorithms Work” . I saw her in a heap of thematic groups, a lot of specialists shared it with me. And my SMMs dropped it for me too for review. There are 3 paragraphs of the text, I ask them: “Have you read what is written there?” - they answer: "No." And the whole essence of the article lies in the word magic , having read to which you understand that practically no one understands these algorithms, and Facebook itself will certainly do everything to make it continue to be “magic” for everyone. So now all our hypotheses are built on a frantic cocktail of crazy ideas, experiments and intuition.  

    By the way, we are increasingly seeing that no one needs the main page. About 15-20% of the audience comes from bookmarks or third-party sites, the rest of the traffic is search engines and social networks.

    We consider ourselves not quite modern media, because our traffic from search engines is much more than from social networks. That's when it becomes the other way around, then we will be real modern media!

    Do you have any kind of analytics on social networks? Tables of the best materials or the number of likes and reposts?

    Be sure to look at the number of clicks on the site in Google Analytics. One of the KPIs of the SMM team is the amount of traffic from social networks per week and month. Naturally, we look at the number and growth rate of subscribers in our communities.


    Consider how many subscribers a particular publication pool brings?

    Not. We consider the general top: we summarize all the metrics in social networks and display the rating. What articles were fired for a year, month, week. We draw obvious conclusions about the popularity of certain topics and “swing” them. An article about homemade cookies has come in - let's write more often about homemade cookies.


    What metrics do you see on the site?

    We constantly measure realtime - we track how many people are currently on the site on Google Analitics. We look at the number of views, the number of unique users, viewing depth, time on the site, traffic sources. Constantly comparing what is happening. Day to day. Week to week. And so all 9 years of the project.


    Lifehacker’s main fetish is the number of users on the site in real time.


    So far, unfortunately, we do not have a staff of mathematicians and analysts. There is such a vulgar dream that a genius analyst will come, take a bright look at our data and say: “do it and everything will be fine”. And until this happens, we are constantly experimenting and trying to do everything a little better today than it was yesterday.


    How is your development team organized?

    We have 3 programmers and 2 designers. Most of their tasks arise spontaneously in the form of advertising projects. The rest of the time, under the leadership of the product owner, they work on the main product.


    Do they have any sprints? Are you using Sсrum or kanban ?

    We have sсrum. We are trying to live in accordance with the principles of religion, but it turns out very badly.


    Do not fit into the sprint?

    Not. Planning in our current environment is a pointless exercise. For example, we put a number of tasks from the backlog into the sprint. Estimate the time. But a wonderful combination of circumstances can happen, and all plans will be crossed out by 3 urgent special projects that have arisen. And then we put the sprint aside.

    We have never had investments. We spend on ourselves only the money that we have earned.

    Of course, we have a mission and we believe in what we are doing. But to do what we love and want to do, we need money. And you need to earn them.


    What is the coolest thing done in the last year?

    We have been growing continuously throughout the year. The audience doubled in a year, from three to six million unique visitors per month. And in terms of business, they have grown well.


    How did the audience grow?

    Search and social networks. Moreover, due to the search, oddly enough, it is much stronger, although we do not even have a seoshnik and never have. And we also never bought any links. Just try to write on topics that will always be relevant. For example, the article "How to download video from Youtube"Now it collects from the search 50-70 thousand views per month. She has gained 1.7 million views since 2012!

    To grow, you need to remain interesting, so we constantly learn something new, invent something. We look, who does what, of course. We see that someone is looking at us.

    Which media do you spy on most often?

    For us, watching others is something like a shadow boxing. We do not compete with anyone, and we do not identify ourselves as mass media. There is no real opponent, but you constantly beat the fictional opponent and pump skills.

    It’s great to come up with a real opponent and compete with him virtually.

    It greatly simplifies the training process. For example, getting the publisher to publish a review of a new startup is faster than it appears on the CPU (now - approx.ed) . The emphasis, of course, on the speed of work and understanding of trends, and not at all on the race with another edition.

    Abroad, there are a lot of cool projects that are breaking the media market today. Create new formats, rediscover old ones. Buzzfeed space guys who break a niche after a niche. Or Quartz was one of the first to take and completely cancel the main page. The Verge - content gods do things that no one else does. Vox with explanatory journalism and flashcards. The format of the cards they seem to have borrowedMeduza , and rightly so - if some idea inspires and makes you stronger, then why not use it? Try, see and measure how what works (or does not work) for others will work for you. One must constantly be in good shape, be curious and flexible. Otherwise oblivion and death.

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