Status update - 2022-03

Console status update - March 2022. Subscriber growth, menu revamp, devtools jobs, and retiring in-depth reviews.
Status update - 2022-03

This is a monthly series reporting on how things are going at Console. This post looks at what happened in March.

Focus for March

I wrote last month:

Now we have several main website sections, we'll be revamping the top menu so it can display more items and automatically collapse for smaller screens. We're also working on building out the devtools jobs section of our website. This already features in the email newsletter, but we want to go further with website profiles.

So how did we do?

Subscriber growth

We now have just under 21k subscribers to the Console newsletter, 77% of which have more than 5 years coding experience. We regularly see featured tools receive over 1,500 clicks each and vendors see conversion rates of 5-10%, with some as high as 20%.

The commercial model is also working well. We reject more tools than we accept, and once accepted vendors can pay to choose when their review appears in the newsletter. These sponsored slots have the same engagement as the non-sponsored positions and so far in 2022 sponsored tools have averaged 1,320 high intent clicks. This is important because we want our audience to trust our recommendations even if we have a commercial relationship with a vendor (which we disclose within the newsletter and on the website).

We're booking sponsored slots about 6 weeks ahead, so if you're interested in working with us then get in touch.

The menu has been refactored to feature the key sections of the site - Newsletter, Tools, Betas, Interviews and Podcast - plus a theme switcher. As the size of the screen is reduced, the menu will collapse into an ellipsis until it switches to full mobile mode when it becomes stack icon.

Full menu width
Ellipsis menu.
Mobile menu

Devtools jobs

The software vendors we speak with all spend a lot of time trying to reach experienced engineers. Our newsletter helps connect engineers with interesting tools, but the other big reason companies want to speak to developers is for recruitment.

However, our theory is that the best engineers are rarely looking for a new job. They are usually well paid, enjoy their current position, and if they decide (or have) to leave, they can usually pick and choose from the best companies and roles. This means typical job search products based around a job board or CV search rarely work well. Engineers don't want to sift through thousands of irrelevant posts and they also don't want to receive lots of recruiter spam.

We've been thinking about how Console might be in a position to help with this. Our audience is experienced engineers and we work with the best organizations who want to reach them.

Our first iteration on this problem is through a new website section with behind the scenes profiles of interesting devtools companies: AutoCloud, CodeSee, Oso, and Sourcegraph.

We interviewed each of these companies about how they run engineering to help developers get an insight into what it is like to work there. There are questions about the tech stack, how teams are structured, what tools they use, how the development process works and how hiring works.

There are more profiles to come, and we plan to highlight them in the newsletter each week, but the goal is to evolve this into a recruitment product that works for both engineers and organizations trying to hire.

Behind the scenes at Sourcegraph.

Retiring in-depth reviews

We decided to retire the category and in-depth reviews we launched on the website last year. These reviewed the top tools in a few different categories such as server monitoring and browser testing. The idea for these pages was to see how we would rank for different comparison and review keywords with a goal of building website traffic then figuring out how to commercialize the content.

We were happy with the reviews, design, and approach to these articles and even saw some good early results where we ranked first for key terms. However, to continue to write new articles and keep them up to date would require significant investment with an uncertain business model. We've seen other websites do this with affiliate, pay per click and even pay-for-review models, but none of these fit in with how we want to run Console as a business.

After considering the progress and investment needed to continue working on this project, we decided that we would focus on building something valuable through the newsletter instead. We have grown with authentic reviews that reach developers directly through email, and an SEO model doesn't really fit with that. There is no connection between our newsletter audience and web traffic from SEO optimized terms. We think the jobs opportunity described above is much more in keeping with what our audience would like to see (the profiles are interesting even if you are not looking for a job) and has a much clearer business model.

Focus for April

In April we'll be publishing more company profiles and experimenting with how they should be highlighted in the newsletter. We're also thinking about how we can collect preferences for the types of jobs engineers would like to see, and how to connect them with companies hiring.

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