Welcome to the more than 2,000 new subscribers who joined us this week.
In Today’s Newsletter:
A Quick Update on Aakash
Tech Corner: How did Instagram Surpass Facebook’s Ad Revenue?
Career Corner: How to Rock Upward Management
Paid Corner: The Deepest Midjourney Breakdown on the Web
A Quick Update on Aakash
I don’t usually spend much time in the newsletter talking about myself. But something big is happening. After the experiments of the past few weeks, I have decided on the vision for the product that is this newsletter, Product Growth:
I want Product Growth to be one of the best paid newsletters in the world.
Here’s what’s going to happen. The free newsletter will still be here, but my deepest and best content is going to go paid:
It is going to be stuff you can’t get anywhere else on the web, including tons of ad-free deep-dives
My goal is for the paid newsletter to have at least a 10x ROI for your career. It’s the perfect thing to expense. Here’s an e-mail template
Paid content will be “earned secrets” that reflect my 15 years working in product management at Google, Fortnite, and Affirm
I commit to making the product better every single week. If you’re still not convinced, here’s the 1-pager I used to set the strategy and vision myself.
How did Instagram Surpass Facebook’s Ad Revenue?
One of the craziest changes in the balance of power in Big Tech is the growth of Instagram at Meta. Instagram recently surpassed Facebook’s revenue, with half the sized team.
The change is so monumental that it’s spurred lots of shakeups at Meta as the company rebalances. But how exactly did Instagram manage to surpass Facebook? Let’s break it down:
1. The power of focus
Instagram has maintained a simplicity of content. It’s photos and videos. Facebook has tried to become an all-in-one app. It’s aggregating news, photos, text, local marketplace, and more.
Instagram is simple, like Chick-fil-A with a few items. Facebook is McDonald’s, with too many to count.
One of the more interesting anecdotes out of Instagram’s product culture is that of “unshipping teams.” Because Instagram knows that simplicity matters, even within the stories team, they focus on removing features. It’s a far cry from the “add it all” mentality FB seems to have.
2. The trust problem
Facebook launched ads in 2007. Instagram waited until late 2015. Even then, it kept ad load and units low. Just last week, Instagram announced more ad load. Facebook can’t do that.
Indeed, Facebook has been subject to a multi-year blitz of negative PR. It’s been bleeding teens for years. Recently, it’s also the elderly. After the “stolen” election of 2016, it lost the left. Then in the ensuing years of “censorship,” it lost the right.
3. Reels and stories
Instagram users, already familiar with the camera lens on their smartphone, love stories and reels. Stories is “Snapchat.” Reels is “TikTok.” Although Facebook now also has these features, they’re more natural and adjacent to Instagram users.
The success of Instagram Reels and Stories has done two things. First, users are engaging with the product longer. Second, they have provided another monetization surface. Both of these have helped Instagram become the advertising giant it is today.
4. Staying cool
The hardest demographic to reach is the youth. And they have been leaving Facebook. Facebook’s teenage users in the U.S. have declined 13% since 2019. Usage is projected to drop another 45% the next two years.
Younger kids don’t even create profiles.
5. Growth begets Growth
Losing the coolness factor has knock-on effects. Advertisers don’t pay as much to reach audiences they can elsewhere - like TV. And as those kids age, they never sign up for Facebook.
In the U.S., Facebook is expected to have flat user growth. On the other hand, Instagram is expected to grow around 4%. This makes it more worthy of advertiser attention.
Instagram is more of a brand platform. It has glossy images and videos. Facebook used to be the ultimate direct response (DR) platform. The decrease in performance after the iOS 14.5 privacy changes really hit DR ads.
Because Instagram is more reliant on brand ads, it has been able to withstand the hit to DR performance better. It also helps that brand advertising has many more channels than DR. Newspapers, radio, and TV are still big.
So, Instagram still has share to steal.
P.S. I am experimenting with Product Growth x Instagram. If you like behind-the-scenes lifestyle / inspirational content, it’s for you.
How to Rock Upward Management
Let me let you in on a little secret: your manager doesn’t want to manage you. They want you to manage leadership.
Upward management for PMs - How to get what you deserve & your company needs
Modern tech workers live in “meritocratic” hierarchies. But the meritocracy isn’t based purely on teamwork & impact. It has a critical third dimension: your ability to manage up.
Look around: Instead of being the oldest, the most senior workers these days are the best at managing up. The more senior folks at work have calendars booked end to end. They’re managing up with every minute they have.
And it’s not just managing your boss. It’s all of senior leadership. With the rise of calibration and promotion committees, everyone has to know - and multiple have to advocate - for you. This is especially true for PMs, because nearly every exec wants a say in the roadmap.
We weren’t really trained for this at school. Sure, we had teachers and coaches to impress. But, we were generally led to believe that the quality of our work and collaboration would speak for itself. At work, the quality component is much less obvious and also more siloed.
Everyone on senior leadership is not going to be an expert in your field and closely watching all your moves. They have a a whole host of other expertise and focus areas. So, it’s critical to involve them in the work, iterate on it with them, and impress along the way.
Your boss doesn’t want to manage you to do this. This is what your boss wants:
Identify a set of key advocates
Identify a group of leaders who: might speak up for you, have natural overlap with your work, and you like. These should be people who matter to your boss and promotion committee. Ideally they are also rising stars themselves.
Involve them in the work
Make it your weekly habit to work with your advocates. Get feedback on your strategy, review experiment results, and build the relationships. It’s not enough to just CC them on your brainstorm. DM and follow-up to stay connected.
Iterate and impress
Be ready to work to impress them. Essentially, they are another boss. Do extra work on PRDs, strategies, and results they review. Shine extra bright with preparation in meetings they are in. Ask for feedback often - and honestly improve.
Have touch points with everyone
Your product leader boss is working with a ton of people. Try to find scalable touch points with the folks that have your boss’ ear. If the project overlaps with their goals, ping them directly. PM’s managing up cannot be shy to ping VPs.
Don’t waste opportunities
When you have an opportunity to speak at scale to the larger product team, seize the day. Ping seniors who you don’t work with often for pre-meeting feedback. Then speak up. Show everyone how thoughtful, data-driven, & customer-focused you are.
The Deepest Midjourney Breakdown on the Web
Midjourney is the hottest product in AI. The 11-person team has completely outperformed the 300+ person team at OpenAI and the 30K+ team at Adobe in generative AI for images. Just see for yourself:
It’s not just in the quality of the images, but also in the numbers. The Midjourney Discord is by far the largest in the world, more than 4x as big as OpenAI’s. And it’s spawned way more viral Twitter threads. This raises some really important questions:
What has been Midjourney’s product strategy?
How did such a small team outmaneuver the competition?
What are the key lessons for builders who want to replicate their small team success?
Saddle up. I’m going to answer all these questions and more in this week’s paid breakdown. This is the content you will find nowhere else on the entire web.
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