July Memo: Happy 4th & Q3 OKRs!

published Jul 4, 2017
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“When you’re tired of saying it, people are starting to hear it”

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn

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Happy Fourth of July Everyone.

Given the way our holiday has fallen this year, it is one of the most peaceful long weekends in memory. I hope you are all enjoying it and having time to reflect, for tomorrow we commence our biggest quarter ever. I’m not kidding. Expectations for both revenue and audience growth are at an all-time high. The warm up of the first six months is officially over. Q3 and Q4 are BUSY and we all have to be well connected and aligned to succeed.

I couldn’t be more excited, however, because I truly believe we have the teams to do the work and by sticking closely to our OKRs we have the focus to get the right work done. To get us on our way, I want to briefly go over our Q3 OKRs here and tomorrow in our All Office meeting.

Everything stems from our mission, and it has become clear as day to me what the words are during the past quarter:

A warm, beautiful, healthy home for everyone.

We serve our community in this mission.

When I began this project as a interior design service in 2001, I was atypical in that I basically did anything I thought was necessary for my client’s homes. This meant that I didn’t just help them pick colors for their bedrooms or figure out which sleeper sofa would fit through the door and look great. I cleaned (washing windows and scrubbing floors). I moved televisions and electronics (wiring, unwiring, wiring again). I installed air purifiers and water filters. I outfitted kitchens and recommended cooking lessons.

This is the genesis for Apartment Therapy and Kitchn, as well as the three other sites we used to run, which folded into AT: Unplggd, Ohdeedoh and Re-Nest.

The home, I’ve always believed, is not a space with four walls. It is a confluence of things and activities and spirit that all combine to protect, recharge, nourish and remind us of who we are. As Terence Conran said:

Home is the heart of life Home is where we feel at ease, where we belong, where we can create surroundings that reflect our tastes and pleasures Making a home is a form of creativity open to everyone…

So we have our overall mission, and we’ve been helping people achieve their warm, beautiful, healthy homes for years through Apartment Therapy and Kitchn, but in growing, chasing pageviews and being tossed around by the constant warping and fragmenting of the web we’ve lost our close connection to our readers. We are not alone in this, but we’re well equipped to both feel the pain and have our entrepreneurial spirit kick into figuring it out.

Last December we all charted our course for the year, by calling it The Year of the Reader. What did this mean? It meant on the one hand that we felt out of touch and unsure about what would help our readers most and grow our audience and other health metrics again. It meant that we were going to use all the tools we had, especially data (since we’re now dealing with very large fragmented audiences), to regain confidence in where our readers are, what they like and what is helpful to them so that we knew what to create and how to send it.

In Q1 we had seven company OKRs and eleven departmental OKRs, so many that it’s hard to remember any one of them. We ended the quarter at cumulative confidence level of 7.5 and great work was done:

  • Rev Ops achieved record revenue
  • Video began to conquer & rule social video
  • Ops finally launched Salesforce!
  • Both editorial teams worked closely with verticals for the first time and began growing new pageviews balancing old content losses
  • CMS was overhauled for first time in years

Overall, awareness of reader touch points grew deeply across the company for the very first time.

In Q2 we tried a different approach, focusing our company attention on only one OKR:

Create an innovative, compelling environment that inspires loyalty and love in our audience.

And our success would be measured in three KRs:

  • Growth of loyal, return users
  • Growth of Pages per Session
  • Growth of email sign-ups

While we had difficulty moving all of these needles, it was smart of us to focus and we all remember what we were trying to do over the past three months. We also had some very key wins:

  • Time on site rose significantly
  • Return users grew on KT and we learned facebook & email is where our most loyal users are
  • We crushed email – setting us up perfectly for rest of the year
  • Video hit new record highs
  • Comscore audience metrics rose for first time since Jan
  • Revenue was 25% over goal and over 50% over goal YOY

This was a winning quarter from an achievement, learning and revenue standpoint, but more is needed.

What next?

This is our OKR for the next three months:


This popped out of someone’s mouth during our meeting last week and means exactly what you think it means, we’re going for it with our reader community and taking it to a new level. We’re giving them a bear hug.

None of us are going to forget this one.

Our KR’s:

  • Return User growth – our loyalists (we’re keeping this one)
  • Time on Site growth – everyone sticks around more
  • Interaction growth – community engagement matters on site and off

This last one is new and will be a roll up of a number of interaction metrics that we think will give us a sense of loyalty and engagement beyond the traditional pageview metric.

Learning from Q1 and Q2, we’re pairing this one company OKR with one OKR from each department that ladders right up into it and riffs off the emotional, playful language up top. There are eleven of them, which is a lot, but each one gives each department a super clear focus on top of their regular work that is totally aligned with the company and each other. I will let you read them down below.

Finally, remember that we are not only challenging ourselves to grow the company and serve our “customers” better, we are also challenging ourselves to be better at what we do.

“What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.”

Dwight Eisenhower

OKR are more than anything an exercise in making time for what matters most and not getting swamped by brush fires and low-level urgent dramas. We are training ourselves to focus on important things. As Christina Wodke writes, “Urgent things get done, both important and unimportant, because we feel keenly the pressure of time. Unless we bring that pressure to other important things, they will continue to live in the land of tomorrow. And because we live in the land of today, we will never do them.”

I look forward to our weekly Monday meeting where will commit ourselves to our work each week. Step by step we will all achieve important things this quarter.

Best, Maxwell


  1. OPS – Know & Love Ourselves: Cross company clarity through better training
  2. AT – Fall in Love Again with the Golden Oldies: Crack the code on growing old content pageviews with our readers
  3. KT – Connect with Readers Through More Personality: Playing up individuals who our readers identify with
  4. Art – Achieve Recognized & Adored Brand Style: Double down on art & image so we know it with our eyes closed
  5. Video – Own the Signature Moment: focus on signature moments that will remain indelible
  6. Clean Up the Report House: Rebuild reporting so it’s fast, accurate and more time is spent on insights
  7. Product – Give Them More Reasons to Come Back: Literally giving community members more to do by adding features and value!
  8. MP2- Return, Return, Return (while rebuilding): Increasing basic stickiness of MP while rewriting code by Q4.
  9. CS – The Better Dating Service: Advanced segmenting and verticals to better match with client goals
  10. Rev Ops – Date New People: Grow partnerships and launch new revenue opportunities in new areas to diversify
  11. Sales – Give Them More Reasons to Come Back: Repeat business is the best, we will grow this in Q3