DOU is the largest Ukrainian online portal for IT specialists. Founded in 2005, it combines a news publication with a community of software developers.
Today, DOU has over 500,000 registered users and 1 million unique website visitors monthly, with 9-10 million monthly page views. The company is financially successful – its business model relies mostly on the revenue from DOU’s job notice board; it also sells ads.
Over 17 years, the portal built a loyal and engaged audience. In 2022, as Ukraine has faced Russia’s military invasion, DOU has leveraged its audience expertise to raise money for Ukrainian Armed Forces. Notably, in May the company raised $1 million for a military drone within just a day.
We talked to Vladyslava Zatsarynna, DOU’s former editor-in-chief who recently transitioned to Head of Operations, about how DOU’s team works and how it managed to form an engaged community of readers.
DOU employs about 20 people. They are divided into teams by sections on the site. Each team consists of 3 to 5 people. These are the Newsfeed, GameDev, Forum / Community teams, as well as the SMM / Marketing team. Each team has its lead; Zatsarynna oversees team leads.
The editorial office has a plan of articles; the Newsfeed team publishes 1-2 unique articles a day. The lead’s job is to oversee the publication process. They look at monthly views and best-performing content of the month but do not dive too deep into analytics.
On the forum, readers publish about 600 topics every month. The number of topic submissions is twice or three times higher, but the submissions are moderated.
The support team helps companies that publish in the Jobs section. Before the war, DOU used to publish up to 10,000 vacancies a month. They have about 10,000 company profiles on the website.
In the Calendar section, DOU published 500 events a month before the Russian invasion. Events are published mostly free of charge, but there are commercial options as well.
DOU focuses exclusively on Ukrainian IT, and everything that comes out on the site should be of interest to Ukrainian software developers. This niche helps them maintain the quality of the audience. They know that their reader is a Ukrainian developer or a person adjacent to the field.
DOU’s social media managers are also community managers. They focus on engaging the readers and designing activities for them. Zatsarynna points out that community managers should focus on community development, not content. The social media / community manager is not only thinking about delivering content on social networks, they are thinking about how else to engage readers and what else should be done to grow the brand and build a community around it.
DOU’s main revenue stream is its job notice board. Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the portal published up to 10,000 vacancies monthly. Publishing one job notice typically costs $25 for an IT company, with discounts for bulk orders.
DOU does not sell native advertising. Other monetisation methods include paid video and audio overviews of IT companies’ offices, as well as banners for companies to promote job notices on the website. Besides, the company is planning ad integrations on YouTube and have already had several integrations in podcasts. DOU works only with IT companies and does not advertise other services and products.
As Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine started in February 2022, DOU’s income significantly dropped with the number of job openings having fallen. However, the demand eventually returned, and the company survived the first months of the war relatively painlessly. Unlike many other Ukrainian publications, DOU fully retained its editorial team.
The company was even able to donate some of the financial cushion generated before the war to the army. DOU and Djinni, DOU founder Max Ishchenko’s other project, collectively donated over UAH 50 million (€1.6 million).
DOU prioritises the needs and interests of its audience.
Many publications are more focused on content rather than audiences, Vladyslava Zatsarynna says. They bring readers to the website thanks to engaging content, the reader sees a banner or reads a native ad – and this is mostly the end of the interaction. That’s not DOU’s approach – they aim to build a community.
The portal has almost no pieces of content without users’ comments. It helps gather instant feedback from readers. Zatsarynna says that, if readers don’t like an article, editors can see it immediately through active users’ comments, and if necessary, arrange a call within the team to analyse what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future.
DOU takes audience research seriously. Every six months, they conduct an audience survey, salary survey, and create a portrait of an IT specialist. The surveys help the company understand readers well and have a sense of how the audience is evolving.
The publication has a strong presence on social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and especially Telegram. On Telegram, DOU created about 15 public channels devoted to various topics like remote work, relocation of IT specialists, and a community for Ukrainian IT specialists in Poland. The flagship Telegram channel (“DOU Newsroom”) has over 27,000 subscribers; the channel for beginners in IT has over 44,000 subscribers.
Vladyslava Zatsarynna says that, to keep readers interested, the team continuously implements new things for IT professionals. For example, DOU has been building up its talk podcast and YouTube channel with video interviews. The team initially had little expertise with video and audio production, but they “knew it was time to jump on that train.”
Other examples are built-in polls on DOU’s website forum as a way to engage the audience, as well as a dedicated Telegram chat for DOU’s community of QA testers.
Zatsarynna says that DOU’s articles, projects, competitions, events, and other activities over the last 17 years have had one goal: to unite the community. The ecosystem is built to meet all the needs of software developers.
In May, DOU partnered with Come Back Alive, Ukraine’s largest NGO helping the army, to raise UAH 30 million ($1 million, ~€960,000) for PD-2, a Ukrainian-made combat drone. The goal was met within a day – much quicker than DOU’s team anticipated. This fundraising drive hasn’t been the only one for DOU, but it’s been the biggest one.
Vladyslava Zatsarynna points out two factors that helped achieve the ambitious goal. First, DOU’s active community. DOU was helping raise funds for the army even before Russia’s full-scale invasion (when Russian troops were building up near Ukraine’s border and escalation seemed likely), having doubled Come Back Alive’s monthly Patreon commitment from $25,000 to $50,000.
The second factor is creative representation. DOU developed a regularly-updated widget that reflected the campaign’s progress. The team created multiple announcements and visuals to remind the audience about the campaign at every stage.
Zatsarynna notes that people want to be part of something bigger than themselves. “A person is part of the IT community, and they see the community launching a significant fundraising campaign. Then this person sees that the community can raise the necessary amount in a day, so they begin to donate three, four, five times to show that the IT community and, in particular, I, the developer, can achieve this goal.”
Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash