Why I hopped away from TimeHop

By August 8, 2013Uncategorized

Have you joined my incredibly non-annoying, once-in-a-while email newsletter?

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

About two years ago or so ago, I was introduced to a new service called TimeHop. Such a brilliant concept, so ingenious in its simplicity: Send a daily email to subscribers that tells them what they did a year ago. Genius. I quickly became 100% addicted, and it was the first email I’d read after the HARO. The guys at TimeHop stumbled upon what I had already learned – If you create great content, people WILL read it.

It’s what I call EgoEmail, and it’s similar to what I built with HARO, in that we read that which can greatly impact us the most. People open the HARO each day because it gives them the chance to get famous, people opened the TimeHop email each day because they like to read about themselves. We’re a narcissistic bunch, we are…

Eventually, TimeHop launched an iPhone app, which I downloaded for my iPad, but didn’t really use much, because a) I have an Android, and b) the call to action with an app isn’t anywhere near as strong as with an email. An email sits there, in your line of vision, and each day screams “YOU MUST READ ME NOW!”  An app is like the weed-smoking brother of email, who says, “Yeah, if you happen to remember, you can come chill with me, if not, it’s cool, no worries.” There’s no URGENCY to an app, EVEN IF you allow it to send you notifications.

So imagine my surprise last month when TimeHop announced “Hey, we’re dropping email,  as of next week you’ll have no choice but to use the app.”

I was like, “say what?”

The email WORKS. Why lose it?? (I’m not even getting INTO the fact that they don’t have an Android app yet…)

This just WORKS. Why would you kill what works?

I just don’t understand the logic. Why dump something that’s not only NOT broken, but working BETTER than your alternate solution ever could?

If the majority of your early adopters were using email, and you then kill email, you’re assuming that they’ll all “come around.” That’s a glaring error.

There are two parts to TimeHop’s mistake here: 1) Email will continue to always be the killer app. Texting is fun. What’s App is adorable. Even Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare and SnapChat have their place in the world. But when my alarm goes off at 4:45am in the pitch blackness of the early morning and I reach for my phone, I don’t scroll to find an app. I read my email first. I always have, I always will, and so does the rest of the world. I might just scan my email and then go see what the world Tweeted last night, but I always go to my email first.

Before TimeHop switched to their app and killed the daily email, I read it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Had they put an advertiser on that email? I would have seen it. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It would have been the first thing I saw, I would have archived it (I saved a ton of my TimeHop emails, since they were just such fun reminders) and I would have totally known the advertiser names.

I did a quick self-survey this past month after TimeHop killed email. You know how many times I opened the app? Eleven times. Eleven times in 30 days. Compared to 30 times in 30 days. I just don’t see the urgent fun in TimeHop anymore. If I happen to be on my iPad, and I happen to have finished all my Words With Friends turns, and I happened to have finished all my Running With Friends turns, and I happen to not have any new email in my box, and I happen to not have any Facebook updates to look at, or Twitter replies to read, then I might swipe over one screen, go to the “utilities” folder, open TimeHop, and read about my day last year or the year before. If all those things line up, then TimeHop gets a viewer.

The second mistake TimeHop made was not knowing their audience, and making a drastic change without involving them. Know your audience, and don’t give up what they love for any reason, unless you’re willing to accept the consequences. Considering that TimeHop virtually OWNED my eyeballs EACH DAY with their email, and now they’re lucky if I visit once a week, I’d say that’s one hell of a consequence.

Want me back, TimeHop? Bring back the daily emails, that which hooked me in the first place. Otherwise, well, heck – I’ll just let my memories remind me what I did a year ago.

  • Oh man I am so with you on this. I always opened my TimeHop emails! In fact, I didn’t realize they had stopped until you just posted this. But if they were still there, I would still be opening them.

    • Eric Heilmeier

      Agree, Loved it, but didn’t notice it stopped daily emails. Guess that shows I wouldn’t use the app. That’s a shame.

  • Not taking user experience into account = death.

  • Katie C

    I have always used the TimeHop app, but am also experiencing dissatisfaction after their latest update since they removed the friend feed in the app and now you have to take engagement to other social channels or via text/email. It was a great way to share memories with a select group of friends without clogging your Facebook timeline. Why an app would want to draw conversation and engagement outside of their environment is beyond me!

  • I’ll have to disagree with you on this on, Peter. I opened the emails daily, but once the iPhone app came out, I quickly unsubscribed to the email. The email is relatively archaic, like reading your Twitter feed in a email. The issue is clearly not having an Android app.

    Also, many of do NOT use email regularly. My company uses a social collaboration tool for 99% of our internal communication and most of our clients use it as well. Granted, we’re a bit of a rarity at the moment, but saying “I always will check email first” is like saying “I always will use my use my phone service to talk to other people.”

  • Ken

    I’d never even heard of TimeHop before your blog post, but yeah, that’s stupid. And judging on complaints about their latest update, an even broader problem with them is this: NEVER assume that everyone uses facebook, or at least would use their facebook account to connect with your service. If I see that, I automatically delete the app. Automatic fail.

    Reminds me of an annoyance of mine for a while now. People who use text messages instead of email. If you want to get a message to me where I’m sure to see it quickly, send a text message. If it’s something I need to follow up on or reference well after the fact, or you intend to have a conversation, send an email. I can easily get back to that, flag it, file it, whatever. Once I’ve seen a text message, it’s as good as gone.

  • Christy Stroud

    This is so true. I’d actually been wondering what happened to my TimeHop emails & I never even downloaded the app.

  • NavyAustin

    Totally agree, Peter! If an app isn’t delivering anything that I can’t get from a plain-text email or a web site, there is no point to the app, period. And like Intel’s CEO said, it can’t be marginally better to switch – it needs to be a 10x difference.

    One of my favorite quotes re: user experience and the continued success of the low-tech, plain text Drudge Report was this gem: “People habituate websites that reward their habituation.”

    Email, and particularly text, creates an urgency. The sound of an incoming message is like a twig snapping in the woods – we HAVE to turn and look. Sound goes from ear to brain with very little processing, it’s actually faster than sight!

    A great article a few years ago interviewed Craig of Craigslist, and the many ways that others tried to “improve” and monetize their model/mission of facilitating local, face-to-face transactions. Every improvement would have made it worse and delivered less value, and interfered with their mission.

  • Amy Deveau

    I completely agree! I never even bothered to download the app!

  • Becca

    Thank you for this article! When I suddenly stopped receiving Timehop emails, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Turns out they broke their own great system. 🙁 If they ever come out with an Android app, I’m not sure if I’ll download it; getting an email and not having to download yet another app was super nice. Disappointed, Timehop.

  • Email is what I always look at…just as you do.

    Somewhere there is an amateur hypnosis campaign which is trying to seed the air with particles telling us “everyone now uses phone apps for everything”. Perhaps they hope it’ll be the case one day. Unlikely. As you outline so well an app needs opening and it’s always one of so many (apps). While email still holds the lions share of valid and valued messages, it will rule.

    As for TimeHop – news to me, but not news I’ll see…without email, a subscriber I will not be!

  • robusdin

    I open Timehop every day at breakfast as part of my morning routine. I see what you’re saying, but I also think if you valued the service enough, you’d take the extra 30 seconds to open the app (as long as it’s on a platform you use regularly).

  • Ken

    I know it’s not the point, but do they have an RSS feed? At least like email, it’s all coming to you instead of you having to go fetch it.

  • debbiefriez

    I’m with you! I read TimeHop every day, too! I have missed it, but I have an Android phone, as well, so they lost me.

  • You have to wonder if they even bother to look at their data when making business decisions.

  • Marianna Saraiva

    I tottaly agree with you! I used to read their e-mails daily. To make matters worse, since yesterday I can’t access the website anymore. As I don’t use iOS, I’m dropping Timehop…

  • I missed their announcement about discontinuing email, but when it stopped I just visited their website every morning… EVERY morning. Now, they’ve discontinued the site, and as an Android user, their service is useless to me. It’d be one thing if, like Instagram, they had started off on iPhone only and made the rest of us wait. Instead, they let everyone in, even people without smartphones, and then cut off access to everyone except iPhone users. That’s a really poor strategy.

  • What’s worse is now that they’re sending me a daily email to remind me to open Timehop, rather than letting me read it in the email; talk about building barriers to entry!

  • write4unj

    Here’s another Android user who misses the Timehop e-mails. At least in the beginning, I could read the website, but now I see that’s gone too. Well, it was fun while it lasted. I really think they should have been able to develop the Android app along with the iPhone app and then discontinued the e-mails. Do they really think I love Timehop so much that I’m going to go out and buy an iPhone or iPad?

  • The other day I thought… What happened to my Timehop emails. Googling led me here. And though I’m late to the party – I agree.

  • Jennifer Long

    What I REALLY hate about this is that time and time again when talking to the Timehop people, they INSIST that developing the app will increase their userbase by up to 10x as many people. Which is funny since the vast majority of smartphone users in the world use Android. They say that if they develop Android then they can only incrase 2-3x as much as they were at. HOW DOES THAT MAKE SENSE? And they said that email and website went away so they could focus on making the app better because they don’t have the revenue to do all of that. They really just bake my noodle. I MISS IT. Plus, i’ve been without it a lot longer, as my Facebook posts never pulled for about five months prior to emails going away (so all I had was Foursquare check ins. boring.).. seriously they fixed it and a week or maybe two later…bam, email gone.

  • Agree 100%

  • Euro

    I also has never gotten the message that they stopped email so one day I realized I hadn’t gotten an email in a while. I downloaded the app but since the iOS 7 update slowed me iPhone ridiculously I rolled it back and apparently their app isn’t supported in previous version anymore.
    It’s like they just keep pushing people away by making it more difficult.
    I too preferred email.

  • Neil Turner

    You may be interested to know that Timehop have an Android app in Beta – http://timehop.com/android .

    I prefer the app as it shows data from 2, 3, 4 all the way to 7 years ago, as well as last year. On iOS it sends a push notification to remind you, but I usually open it anyway as part of my morning routine.

  • Brendan Fields

    If you want similar functionality to the Timehop email you can try Sepia which has a daily email with photos from the past. It also has makes collages for special dates such as birthdays. http://www.sepailife.com

  • sm

    I look at timehop every morning without fail when I’m feeding my 3 month old. Maybe the just wanted younger viewers that are more likely to download these kinds of apps.

  • The android app is out now, and I like getting the notification everyday, but the huge stupid thing they did was remove the link to the original source.

    When the thing you did a year ago was reply to someone on Twitter and you have no context around the conversation, the snapshot of your reply is pretty worthless. Actually less than worthless because worthless doesn’t annoy me as much as this does.