What happens to a product once it’s been launched? Well Jorrit Keijzer, founder of the social reading app Papyr, is here to tell us. We look at what went well, what didn’t go so well and where he has changed things (or completely pivoted) with the latest release.
LM: So it’s been 3-4 months since we last sat down and discussed your app for our podcast. This is the second launch on Product Hunt and a lot seems to have changed - most noticeably the name, from Juno to Papyr. Starting off with the ideas you had going into the first launch, are there any ideas that have materialised into something really good or any ideas that just didn’t work?
JK: The name did change, which was a very natural and organic step forward after everything we’ve learned in the last few months. Juno was just a name. Papyr has meaning. And it has to do with the audience that we have started to see using the product more and more. We're now leaning towards academics who want a place to store, read, highlight and share academic papers.
In terms of the ideas we had going into the first launch, the funniest thing was that, when we beta-tested the app, the beta-users didn’t like - or at least didn’t use - quite a few of the features we had. So we took them away and simplified everything, focusing on the sharing aspect which they cited as most important to them. Then, when we initiated our first Product Hunt launch, we found that the users did indeed sign up because they liked the sharing feature but were disappointed because they expected that a lot of the features we’d gotten rid of to naturally be there. These included things like collections for organising, reader mode, and the ability to highlight text. So we ended up adding in a bunch of stuff we’d binned. It just goes to show how important it is to keep testing and keep getting feedback. So yeah, a twist in the tale but ultimately one we’re happy with - and more importantly - the users are happy with.
LM: I mean, navigating through the update, it feels really different too. Design-wise, things have moved around a bit. Were these changes in user experience also a result of the feedback you received?
JK: Oh absolutely. As I mentioned, users expect certain things and enjoy a certain level of familiarity. And while we want to be different to our competitors, we had to accept that there are some things users want to keep the same. For example, the first page you see when you log in used to be an explore page. Papyr is designed to be a social reading app and so it seemed obvious to do it that way. But actually, users wanted to access their saved reads first. This makes sense in a way because these are things half-read or saved for later. So of course that page should be at the front. The same as Instapaper and Pocket. And when you think about it, social apps like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all immediately take you to your own personalised and curated page, with all your followed people, companies and interests.
Users want to scroll through their curated area first, then afterwards they look to explore. Unlike our competitors, we do allow them to do that. It’s just behind some of the other stuff now.
LM: It’s clear there was a lot of good feedback and a lot of good work done on the product. But after all of that is done, it’s launch time. What did you decide to do differently with your launch this time around?
JK: Well this time we had already run the beta-test (or soft launch) and then had launched on Product Hunt. So this time, we had a much better idea of what to expect. Because of this, the biggest difference was the amount of planning and preparation. We did a lot more. I proactively approached a hunter from Product Hunt, someone who had pushed products that had ranked quite highly in the past. I prepared a lot of sales and marketing assets in advance. I reached out personally to a lot of potential collaborators who may be interested in advertising or sponsored content.
Within that, the mistake we made was allowing Papyr to be launched on a Monday. When you compare engagement, every other day of the week does better. So it was disappointing to know we could have got more exposure just by changing the day.
The other part of launching is the growth aspect. One part of this is monetisation and becoming profitable which I’ve already mentioned - finding companies willing to advertise or sponsor content. We are also considering a subscription fee but we would need to develop premium features for this to be viable. The other part of growth is the app itself - how many users and how many articles there are. I have already started networking more within the academic community, as this sector is growing within Papyr. Initially, we thought the app would suit people who read journalism pieces from newspapers, magazines and blogs. But these are already aggregated in some ways - you can choose just one outlet to get the majority of your news from. However, there is no one place like this for academic papers and Papyr could potentially pivot towards filling that gap in the market.
As for the next iteration, our priority right now is simply being good before being profitable. So I’ll keep growing our community and listen hard to what users have to say. This approach hasn’t steered us wrong yet.
To try out Papyr for yourself head to papyr.co