When Product Hunt launched over two years ago, it seemed like an unlikely success story: A site for posting, up-voting, and commenting on apps, websites and other products? Isn’t the Internet awash in enough recommendation engines?
Before long, Product Hunt proved itself to be a surprisingly useful tool buoyed by a uniquely influential and civilized online community. The site became a daily destination for Silicon Valley types, and the startups featured there landed press coverage, priceless advice, even talent and investors.
The site, founded by Ryan Hoover in November 2013, probably could have gotten away with keeping it simple and sticking with its Reddit-for-startup-geeks format. Instead, it’s been plotting a more ambitious path. Today, we get a glimpse at where Hoover is trying to steer this bafflingly buoyant sailboat of his.
Product Hunt’s newly overhauled iOS app, which goes live in the App Store this morning, will look familiar to users of the company’s website. A recent (and very substantial) redesign of the site gives prominent placement to the new features and verticals Product Hunt has launched this year: books, podcasts, Reddit-style live chats, and gaming recommendations.
By paring this new format down to fit onto the screens in our pockets, Product Hunt becomes more than just a place to mindlessly browse for new apps on the subway: It’s also a mobile book club. A virtual meet-up for gaming nerds. It’s even a podcast player.
One by one, Product Hunt has carved out new sections dedicated to each of these areas of interest, trying to expand the site’s enthusiasm and sense of community to visitors who may not write code, live in Slack, or go bonkers for an app that generates color schemes for designers. In other words, Product Hunt is aiming to become a more mainstream community, using its early success among tech enthusiasts to reel in geeks of all stripes.
Product Hunt’s foray into podcasts is probably the most interesting move it’s made in recent months, if only because of the recent explosion of interest and investment in the format, fueled by successes like Serial. But podcast discovery is still tedious and cumbersome. Those that do get it right tend to do so on a per-series basis (You might like this new science podcast), whereas Product Hunt takes the more useful episode-based approach (The latest episode of Death, Sex & Money was really good, according to actual people.)
With its overhauled mobile app, Product Hunt starts to morph from a source of information to a utility: You can use it to browse for new books or smartphone apps, but you can also consume media with it. Today it’s podcasts. Tomorrow it could be music.
Product Hunt’s expansion into these new territories is still an early effort. Listings in the legacy “tech” vertical have vastly more upvotes than newer entrants like podcasts, books, or games. But the startup is clearly hoping to change that with a more comprehensive, inviting interface. Like everyone else, Product Hunt is in a heated battle for your fractured attention span. Starting today, the sharpest weapon in their arsenal is in your pocket.