Opponents argue that the new policy will hurt businesses big and small:
Apple delayed deployment of the new feature for nearly a year to give developers and advertisers time to pivot. Facebook and TikTok have released updated guides in light of the changes for those running ads.
AI-generated video platform Synthesia is the latest AI company to close a Series A round, raising over $12 million. Dru Riley believes that AI-generated content opens infinite leverage for founders as the democratization of media continues.
Founder Evan Britton was laughed out of VidCon 2014 for sharing his product, Famous Birthdays. Today, he gets 600 searches per minute on his site, and is living proof of the power of a niche.
Want to share something with over 70,000 indie hackers? Submit a section for us to include in a future newsletter. —Channing
📱 Apple's New Update Lets Users Opt Out of Ad Tracking
from the User Acquisition Channels newsletter by Darko G.
Apple's highly anticipated App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature has been released, and users can now opt out of ad tracking. Founders running iOS ads will need to adapt their strategies in light of the new update.
Apple app advertising
The background: Apple just released iOS 14.5, implementing the long-debated ATT policy that requires apps to get the user’s permission before tracking or sharing their data. Users can opt out of tracking for any specific app in "Settings."
App developers and advertisers have strongly opposed ATT, as they argue that it will hurt businesses big and small. Apple delayed deployment of ATT for nearly a year to give developers and advertisers time to prepare. Despite the naysayers' concerns, Apple maintains that user privacy is the most important issue.
What this means for you: Facebook prepared a guide on how app advertisers can continue with (limited) tracking for their app installs. TikTok did the same, reminding users that app campaigns will now return limited data.
Apple appears to be working on adding a new ad slot for Apple Search Ads. This could greatly expand their inventory and the number of potential advertisers who will run ads on their network.
The opportunity: Unlike Facebook and TikTok, Apple uses a proprietary tracking system, meaning you're likely to get attribution data for your campaign. This is huge if you're running app install ads for yourself or for a client.
Keep track of when Apple will release this. There will probably be a temporary opportunity for getting low CPMs, meaning more users for your mobile app.
LinkedIn recently published a study on the InMails (LinkedIn's name for internal messages on the platform) that get the best response rates. The blog post specifically targets recruiters, but the listed data is taken from all InMails sent on the platform.
Here are a few top insights from the report:
Shorter InMails get above-average response rates.
There was a huge correlation here. The longer the message was, the less likely it was to receive a reply.
Don't send InMails on Saturday.
The reply rates were pretty stable Monday-Friday, and on Sunday. Saturday was the outlier here, probably because people typically take a break on Saturday after a long week of work.
Personalized InMails perform about 20% better than mass message blasts.
Yes, personalized emails work. Don't copy and paste your message and then blast it out.
InMails sent to "Open to Work" candidates do 75% better.
This is true in almost every niche. For example, ads that target high-intent keywords do significantly better in terms of conversion vs. Facebook ads, for example. The main reason is because people are actively working for whatever you're providing.
What this means for you: If you want to send messages that get replies, make them:
- Short (less than 400 characters).
- Personalized (so they don't look like they've been sent in bulk).
- Part of trigger-based marketing. Identify cues when people are likely to be looking for whatever you're providing.
In my research, I've identified several founders who had success with Microsoft/Bing Ads over Google Ads. One of them was ArkServers ($20K/mo), a game server hosting company:
Google Ads for juicy search terms like "ark server hosting" turned out to work extremely well, and Bing ads were pretty good too. The cost per conversion with Bing was half of that with Google.
Of course, the volume isn't there, but Bing's advantage is that it costs less than AdWords. You can get started with PPC on a budget.
Last week, Microsoft published a few updates to Microsoft/Bing Ads, including:
- The ability to import data from Facebook for native campaigns.
- Video extension ads so you get better clickthrough rates.
- New types of ads for promoting properties or tour activities.
The opportunity: If you can demonstrate your product via video, then video extensions might be a good idea.
Google Ads only has image extensions (still in beta), and no video extensions are currently available.
Will you be trying any of these acquisition channels? Share in the comments.
Discuss this story, or subscribe to User Acquisition Channels for more.
📰 In the News
🎙 Spotify and Apple have rolled out subscription tools to help podcast creators monetize.
💲 India-based unicorn Zomato has filed to go public.
🚙 Lyft has sold its self-driving unit to Toyota for $550M.
💰 Alchemy hit a $550M valuation and aims to be the "AWS for blockchain."
💻 Apple announced its first East Coast campus in North Carolina.
🎬 AI-Generated Content Turns Everyone Into a Producer
from the Trends.vc newsletter by Dru Riley
Synthesia, an AI video generation platform just closed a $12.5M Series A round led by FirstMark. The company joins a steady-growing AI movement as it aims to to make video content creation easier.
Why it matters
AI-generated content is being used for good and evil. To create conflict, incite violence and deceive. To entertain, design and increase productivity.
AI is amoral. It amplifies intent.
Humans are predictably irrational. We are built to replicate, not to reason.
AI-generated content takes us from the era of limited to infinite leverage.
Making connections that we miss, learning faster, and improving over time.
GPT-3 - An advanced language model
IdeasAI - AI-generated startup ideas
Shortly - Complete your thoughts
Frase.io - Create content briefs and answer questions
- Production costs will drop. Watch David Beckham "speak" nine languages.
- Actors and artists will perform posthumously. New songs and films can be made with training data. "Immortality" boosts the value of estates as alternative assets.
- Tools like Synthesia will lead to more million-dollar, one-person businesses. The need to master (or understand) underlying technologies is reduced, leading to smaller firms.
- Pirated personalities will be used to endorse products, narrate books, and more.
- Media is being democratized. If no-code makes you a developer, AI-generated content makes you a producer.
- Code, low-code and no-code give you limited leverage. They require direction. AI-generated content gives you unlimited leverage.
- Humans are predictably irrational, and for good reason. Evolution doesn't reward rationality. It rewards replication. Irrationality isn't surprising. It's expected.
"Photoshop has been around for years. So what?"
Doctored images fool us. Higher-fidelity fakes are more convincing.
"People's likenesses will be abused."
That's the path we're on. Create to combat it. What's the blue check version of video? Will we "NFT-fy" everything to prove authenticity?
"What about biases in AI?"
Twitter took Tay.ai from chill to racist in one day. AI is a sponge for society's ills.
"Deep fake detection algorithms will protect us."
Deep fakes will improve with detection efforts. GANs model an arms race. Sensity, a deep fake detection platform, is a test layer. Pass and it's ready to release.
A Student Used GPT-3 to Write Fake Blog Posts - An early story showing the power of GPT-3.
A Russian AI 'Graphic Designer' Fooled the World... for a Year - How an AI "designer" charged $1,000+ for logos.
We Recreated Joe Rogan's Voice Using Artificial Intelligence - A look at what's possible with voice cloning. Popular personalities will be pirated.
Go here to get the Trends Pro report. It contains 200% more insights. You also get access to the entire back catalog and the next 52 Pro Reports.
Discuss this story, or subscribe to Trends.vc for more.
🤥 Marketing Lie: You Need PR for Your Launch
By Julian Shapiro
The lie: You need PR for your launch.
The truth: You don't need a TechCrunch article. You need an audience. This can be built alongside your product:
- Build in public: Post updates about your startup online and build a community of people who support your growth.
- Add value: Focus on providing value in online communities (like Indie Hackers).
- Publish content: When you publish, you put your ideas out there. People who agree with you will gravitate towards your startup.
A group of core fans is worth more than an article written by someone who hardly knows you.
Discuss this story.
🤩 Founder Evan Britton Banks on Celebrity Birthdays
from the Listen Up! IH newsletter by Ayush Chaturvedi
Evan Britton is the founder of Famous Birthdays, a website dedicated to cataloging the birthdays of famous people and compiling other facts about them. Famous Birthdays has 30M users and racks up 900K daily searches on the platform.
The growth of Famous Birthdays
People have always been obsessed with celebrity culture, and today in the age of the creator economy, the definition of a "celebrity" has expanded to include internet stars and influencers.
This is where Famous Birthdays has found its path to growth. Right now, there are 200K celebrities listed on the platform. Each one has a short bio and random facts about them, similar to an abridged version of a Wikipedia article.
Evan says that Famous Birthdays leverages two major trends:
- Having a mobile-first presence.
- Cashing in on the rise of digital stars who don't get covered by IMDB or Wikipedia.
Evan recognized the appeal of digital-first celebrities (mostly social media stars) with built-in followings, and began featuring them. Back in 2014, Famous Birthdays began listing Vine stars. From Vine to TikTok, this niche group has helped Famous Birthdays skyrocket.
But Famous Birthdays hasn't seen hockey stick growth. It has grown at a rate of 3% year-over-year for the last nine years. Every time they made a bit of money, he reinvested it back in the product. That meant making the tech better, hiring new people, and doubling down on user experience.
He even added pets and bands to the roster since people were searching for them. You can find profiles for famous pets like Grumpy Cat and Doug the Pug.
The power of the search
Famous Birthdays gets about 90K searches a day. Around 10% of those are "missed searches." This is when people search for a celebrity name, but don't find them on the platform.
Evan, along with his team of 25, manually reviews the missed searches every day and adds new stars from this process. Over the years, Evan has invested in sophisticated proprietary technology to better analyze the search queries on the platform.
Today, a search for "Gemini" will return all stars who have the zodiac sign Gemini. Searching "Twitch" will get you all of the Twitch influencers on the platform. And, of course, you can also search by date to get all of the celebrities born on a particular day.
Famous Birthdays has a "Boost" functionality on every profile on the platform. Users can click on a pink button and boost someone they like, which impacts that person's score in the ranking algorithm.
Social media stars have been known to ask their fans to Boost them on the platform to increase their ranking. That's a growth hack built right into the core product.
Last year, Famous Birthdays had more than 2.3B page views. The best way to monetize that kind of traffic is through ads. Evan shared that in 2020, Famous Birthdays had over 10B ad impressions.
With more than 10 ad networks clamoring to show ads on the platform, Famous Birthdays has leveraged its influence to get the best deal for its traffic.
Famous Birthdays doesn't have user accounts, and people don't have to sign up to use the platform. Evan knows he could likely make more money if he built that functionality and added some premium features, or displayed more contextual ads.
However, Evan believes it's important to stay in your lane and dominate there. So the next step for Famous Birthdays will be translating the site into multiple languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, and German, in order to help more users access information about celebrities they care about.
Advice for indie hackers
Here are Evan's tips:
- Do only one thing: Be very specific on what you want to build and stick to that.
- Remember that it won't be easy: You will need a lot of passion and commitment to get through the initial years. Be prepared for that.
- Focus on your niche: Do one thing well. For everything else, don't hesitate to use third-party tools. Don't reinvent the wheel to build something that's not part of your core product.
- Invest in proprietary technology right from the beginning: If a piece of tech can make your core product better, build it in-house and leverage for the long term.
Check out the complete episode featuring Evan on the Indie Hackers Podcast.
Discuss this story, or subscribe to Listen Up! IH for more.
🐦 The Tweetmaster's Pick
by Tweetmaster Flex
I post the tweets indie hackers share the most. Here's today's pick:
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Special thanks to Jay Avery for editing this issue, to Nathalie Zwimpfer for the illustrations, and to Darko G., Dru Riley, Julian Shapiro, and Ayush Chaturvedi for contributing posts. —Channing