The Stats Behind Product Hunt: Why You Should Launch Exclusively

Yesterday our free journalist database, Hey Press, was posted on Product Hunt by Eric Willis who spotted us on Hacker News. The response has been incredible — we’ve been inundated with positive emails, tweets, and comments, finished the day 3rd from top, and received 5k+ hits, 3k+ uniques, and 400+ sign-ups (partly Hacker News).

However, this post is about what we could have done better — and the answer is to launch exclusively on Product Hunt. Here’s why.

Using Product Hunt’s API, I retrieved information for every product that was hunted in the last 100 days. The graph above shows the number of upvotes for all products plotted against the time of hunt. It looks like the earlier in the day you launch, the more upvotes your product receives. However, it’s not exactly clear what’s going on — the relationship could be non-linear, and clustering makes it difficult to tell whether a relationship even exists.

Taking logs for upvotes, and adding an OLS line of best fit makes this relationship more obvious:

Intuitively, it makes sense that the earlier in the day you launch, the more upvotes your product receives. This is due to:

  1. Product Hunt’s Daily Cycle. At the stroke of midnight (PST), the Product Hunt day begins again, the product slate is wiped clean, and new products begin to be hunted… but the first products hunted receive the maximum amount exposure. This is because there is less competition for attention from other products.
  2. The Bandwagon Effect. As the day unfolds, popular products begin to emerge via upvotes — and this social proof encourages others to continue upvoting those same products. This compounds the popularity of those products, and makes it more difficult for newly hunted products to climb the ranks.

These two effects combine to produce a non-linear relationship between time of day and number of upvotes. So, how much does this matter? By taking the gradient of our line of best fit, we get the semi-elasticity of upvotes with respect to time of day:

For every hour earlier your product is posted, expect 8.7% more total upvotes.

This means that if you were hunted at 10am PST, and you received 380 votes by the end of the day (like our product, Hey Press), you could expect to receive:

  • 449 upvotes had you been hunted at 8am, or
  • 626 had you been hunted at 4am, or
  • 872 had you been hunted at midnight.
  • Conversely, if you were hunted at 7pm PST, you could expect just 168 upvotes.

So, how much does it matter? Quite a lot!

… but all of this still doesn’t explain why you should give Product Hunt the exclusive. Isn’t it random what time of day someone hunts you?

No. Exclusive hunts generally launch earlier — as noted on Product Hunt:

“Exclusives generally launch early in the morning (pacific time) but please specify if the time of day is important for you.”

So, to all other product makers, I’d recommend submitting an exclusive:

After all, it’s a great community to give an exclusive, and it will probably help your chances of getting future press coverage anyway☺

Look forward to hearing your thoughts!


Other considerations:
1. It’s also possible that the causal relationship runs in the other direction as well. For example, popular products might also choose to launch exclusively on Product Hunt. I have assumed this effect is non-existent, as it’s difficult to measure, and I think quite unlikely given that earlier hunts outperform later hunts, even when exclusive hunts are ignored.
2. Other factors might also exist that explain why more popular products are hunted earlier in the day. For example, maybe the best product hunters live in a different timezone to PST. However, the explanation I’ve given above seems the most intuitive to me… so go for the exclusive!