To be totally honest, I'm surprised it's taken this long.
Everyone knew a year ago when they were acquihired that Posterous would be discontinued. Why do I say this? Well, Twitter's bread and butter is in 140 characters, if they wanted to look at branching out into micro-blogging they wouldn't need to acquire a company, of whom the majority of their customers already use Twitter. (It was borderline a zero-value gain for Twitter if you take out Posterous' talent)
As it stands now, Tumblr clearly won (Although there has been a few emerging startups of insignificant size. Soup.io is one that springs to mind that is currently in an accelerator). If you are looking for hosted solutions for your startup's blog (or you are at all technical), I'd genuinely think about using GitHub. Start to pull your posts from Posterous and use a static content generator. Jekyll / Punch / Middleman / Hyde / Korma / nanonc / Frank + (any of the other 10 static generators)..
The operative point from using services that generate static content is that you are always in control of your plain-text content. Just push your new post and GitHub will handle your site. If you are worried about traffic on your site or extended build periods (I believe GH does rate limit static sites, and as a comment below mentions, on infrequent occasions builds can take upwards of several hours) then you can still use any other solution... Push to Amazon S3 and proxy through Cloudfront, then you will have probably one of the fastest, geographically distributed blogs on the internet.
This was always happening... Especially when you consider that for the last 12 months I haven't seen a single new feature since they were acquired. I've logged in, see the same "Posterous has been acquired" header for the last 12 months.
Roll your own! It's fun. My site is a custom made file-based blogging platform written with Python Flask, and it's a joy to use since I made it exactly how I wanted it to be made. One feature that I really enjoy is being able to call source files into the post. This allows me to create/update code snippets extremely easily. Markdown + calling includes on my source files is exactly what I needed to efficiently produce content, so I made it myself.
Of course, security is always an issue. I kept everything as simple as possible to reduce the number of ways an attack could exploit my site. I don't believe it to be any less secure than your standard Wordpress site.
Real time publishing is essential if you have a competitive SEO requirement. Google has got good enough that seconds count for web publishing operations. Static page-based content management is also anathema to a content services approach, which is needed for multi-channel, reuse, and dynamic page generation (and is the emerging requirement in content management systems).
In other words you're a troll or you don't know how web publishing works :p I'm talking about major news and media organisations. Immediacy has always been a key differentiator in news and financial data for example (look at trading co's who pay a fortune for systems that will shave milliseconds off getting figures from exchanges). A publishing system that isn't at least near real-time isn't a fit for very many use cases (most commercial publishing, anything with UGC etc).
Can somebody please help me out? I'm confused here. I thought Posterous (before being acquired by Twitter) was doing quite well and was seen as the biggest competitor to Tumbler. It would seem that Posterous had a ton of users (would love to know details) and that they could monetize those users fairly simply through display ads. So, with a ton of users creating content and even more viewing that content, I would imagine it to be a pretty good business model.
What confuses me is that rumor has it that Posterous was sold for $10m. I really don't understand that. That basically is treating all of posterous.com users/content as worthless, and just buying the team. And it appears that Twitter did think like that (considering that posterous.com is shutting down).
But my question is how many users did posterous have? What was their traffic like? Were they doing well, or were they a sinking ship and thus they sold? Or did Twitter offer much more than $10m (maybe stock options worth 30-40m more?)?
I'd like to know because I think it would be helpful for startups to understand this space (blogging, content creation) and what kind of business models work and what kind of traffic is needed to make a successful business.
So, if there is anybody with inside knowledge on this stuff, please speak up. I'd also love to hear directly from the Posterous co-founders. Please share your experiences.
I think the issue here is simply Money In < Money Out.
As an outside observer, it's easy enough to realize that Posterous could have monetized but that doesn't really answer the question of whether they could have monetized _enough_ to pay their ongoing costs.
Most likely they were bleeding money at an extremely fast rate and probably running out, fast, which is why they sold for $10 million and over time under Twitter's wing weren't able to figure out a monetization strategy that would be worth the ongoing costs of running the business. The case is even more convincing once you consider the opportunity cost of keeping high-quality talent away from Twitter.
From where I'm sitting, you hit the nail on the head.
They COULD have monetized, theoretically, but not once the die was cast.
Yes, lots of people have built CMS platform businesses where they charged money. But Posterous was probably, as you say, bleeding money, because they were not designed from day 1 to subsist on $12-49/mo subscriptions.
The choice of the "grow big or go home" model of startup results in a catch-22 when you cannot grow big, nor do you want to go home. The only thing you can fall back on is (if you're lucky) a 7 or very low 8 digit acquihire. Which is what this always has appeared to be:
I don't think I have ever viewed any content on Posterous. I didn't even know what it does until I started reading these comments. On the other hand, I get sent Tumblr links daily. Multiple times a day.
If Posterous is the biggest competitor to Tumblr, it seems that says Tumblr has no real competition.
Sure, but if they were able to get into the top 500 shouldn't that be a business worth more than $10m? Especially since it's user created content, and if they do it right they could keep rising in the ranks of top sites.
I'm curious if they were experiencing a growth stall or even negative growth before selling. Because if they were growing, I don't understand why they would sell and abandon their product unless the offer was ridiculously high.
Posterous could have been growing but if the users were never going to generate any revenue it was inevitable they would have to shut down or be acquired later on. The sale could have been as much for the team (who wants to work on a product that isn't really going anywhere?) as it was for the investors. Keeping Posterous open could have just been delaying the inevitable.
As an aside, Tumblr is apparently having financial troubles (this seems to be speculation based on supposed leaked investor feelings) and Tumblr is huge compared to what Posterous is (especially when you look at how Tumblr cornered the social side of micro blogging and Posterous hadn't).
Having 10 million users is appealing to investors because there's the chance that they might turn into revenue in the future but for a company like Twitter that already has most of those users using their service they're probably not worth very much at all.
Posterous could have been stuck in the stage before becoming a proper business, it could be a fantastic service that tens of millions of users loved but if there's no way to move those users into revenue generating users their most valuable asset could have been the team.
When adding a single user add more costs than revenue, all growth is negative growth. That's part of the problem with many companies. Page views, traffic, and especially "users" do not necessarily translate into money.
That's why I'd love to hear from the founders of Posterous themselves and why they sold, and they state of their company/users when they sold. I'm interested in this field of blogging/self-publishing and want to know what business model can work.
I do give them a lot of credit for providing a means to export data (albeit a somewhat clunky one), because way too many services simply shut down without providing a reasonable way to get your data out.
Instead of setting up a longer living backup for each case, it would be interesting to setup a generic storage mirror and a corporate foundation that can keep these sites alive.
When a startup shuts down a product, they can donate the domain name or point it to the mirror to keep it alive.
Something like archive.org, with some donated servers and a couple of people working on it.
Twitter and other acquirers usually only want the team, and this is happening more and more. We are losing large parts of the web. I wouldn't be surprised if less than 1% of Posterous is exported and goes to live on in other forms. Either way the URLs and links all die.
I've been keeping reocities alive out of pocket. It costs a few hundred every month in hosting costs and another few hundred in machine write-offs. I got about .37 in bitcoin donations, so I'm a bit short still :) But I think it is well worth doing. I assume hosing posterous would cost a lot more than that so I'd have to find some funding but I'm pretty sure this could be done.
I'd be more than happy to help out if Twitter are willing to do it with Posterous. Register a non-profit and then go out and approach some of the larger co's for funds and/or resources to keep it running forever.
Make static backups of these sites using their sitemaps and then ask them to donate or point their domains
It's based off of Jekyll but handles a lot of the boilerplate, including rake tasks to deploy to Github pages. I've been following the github/octopress project for awhile and have seen a lot of activity in the past few weeks, so hopefully version 2.1 is just around the corner.
edit: Also, as a Tumblr user (for my photoblog), I would not recommend using Tumblr for those who are into technical/indepth writing. The set of HTML you can use is limited...for example, I don't think tables are allowed. Its social network of sharing is also more suited toward visual blogs, not ones of deep content.
I like the idea of Octopress and Jekyll, but the few times I've tried them, it seems that they don't easily scale. My blog has over 2900 entries. Build from scratch. chug chug chug That I understand. Now add a new entry and try to get an incremental rebuild in less than 30 seconds.
I'm a bit unclear. Do you use a makefile instead of Jekyll/Octopress? Or somehow in combination with it?
Yes, I do remember that years ago I read about a static web management system that was makefile-centric, but think it lost popularity as more advanced CMS's came out.
Also I have trouble thinking about how a makefile can help you manage the 'Prev' and 'Next" attributes on a page. This is, not only make HTML from the page I just generated, but also go back to the previous writeup and update it to add a 'Next' link to it.
I just have a hacky Python script that reads each file, runs it through Jinja and spits it out. That is then managed with a makefile. I don't have any dependencies between pages (next, prev links) so there's no need to touch old pages on build. I've literally never used those features on any blog I've ever read, so I don't care about them. The makefile also generates an index file using the Python script.
They are the ones lacking empathy! Did you read the OP?
They left their users out to dry, and instead of telling them (us) that they are sorry and that maybe they understand our situation of being burned yet again, they sound like they're very happy with themselves, "building features to help [us] discover and share what’s happening in the world – on an even larger scale".
I don't even know what that means.
You may argue that the world doesn't end with Posterous shutting down, and you'd be right. But the tone of that post is not ok.
I distinctly remember reassuring myself when I created my blog one year ago that there is no way Twitter would leave out the option to download your data if they decided to kill off Posterous. It would just be way too bad PR.
These sort of shenanigans make me wary of using any service that has raised a considerable amount of external funding. Believe it or not, VCs (as opposed to angels) are only in it to get a good return. This frequently forces companies to sell out at the detriment to their customers (given the lack of IPOs as a viable exit option). I get that the founders are in it to make money as well, but don't expect anyone to use your service knowing well that you could just choose to sell out tomorrow.
I wonder if we studied funded start ups over the last 10 years, whether we'll see a pattern of selling out and then discontinuing service.
They do, but they are investing their own money and can choose to value whatever they please (e.g. Social responsibility). VC firms on the other hand have a fiduciary responsibility to their limited partners to maximize returns.
I went the static site route (shout out to Blogofile (http://www.blogofile.com) because I didn't trust anyone but me to run my server and I got tired of running Wordpress and Drupal myself. I paid NearlyFreeSpeech.NET $20 a year ago to host the static files and have about half that still credited to my account.
OK, it's not for everyone. Initial setup certainly wasn't for the faint of heart. But it was fun and replacing my host is as easy as finding another cheap host for text files and jpegs. It was worth it to me.
>> If you want to move your site to another service, WordPress and Squarespace offer importers that can move all of your content over to either service. Just remember: you need to back up your Spaces by April 30.
This isn't fair at all. Posterous was very responsive to user feedback and reported bugs. Posterous engineers spent much of their time answering support emails directly and finding solutions for users. As a matter of fact, support emails go directly to engineers inboxes. Perhaps the problem was that there just weren't enough engineers.
Posterous may not have found a way to make money but the site was definitely meant to improve IMHO. Email, Groups, Spaces, slideshows, sharing to multiple social networks -- the list goes on.
It was all about some bells and whistles, if anything. Email - barely half-baked feature and my biggest problem with Posterous, as initially it was their most hyped core feature (and I believed them). Spaces it's just ol' plain Posterous, they enhanced the name for some vague reasons. Groups is nothing special. Slideshows - another lightbox variant. Sharing to multiple social networks - buggy. The list goes on? So bring it.
Meanwhile, I'll bring my own. Posterous was moderately responsive at most, but e-mail responsiveness and fixing/improving the site and its functionality are different things. Even CEO may be responding to my mails, but it means nothing if it doesn't change a bit of the outcome. I guess the problem was that they had their own vision and roadmap paved with features that will have the biggest impact. They were simply unwilling to pay attention to anything else. It would be fine, really, if they stated it clearly from the beginning.
1. Initially Suyash responded to my first mail (appraisal; asking for markdown inline images, feedburner mybrand and introduction of commenting system such as intense debate). It looked like:
"Thanks for your wonderful email and detailed feedback. I'll pass on some of your suggestions to the team."
2. Second thread (Identi.ca autopost and unwanted location disclosure) didn't get any response.
3. Third thread (wrong URL of the post being previously private and with the title changed before becoming publicized, i.e. premature public URL generation)
"We'll look into changing this behavior in a future update."
4. Fourth thread (<!--more--> doesn't work with markdown, editor doesn't switch to markdown mode immediately, even though the post was written in markdown, no setting for making markdown the default mail posting style) didn't get any response.
5. In my mail starting the fifth thread (1 month later) I collected existing problems. Response, this time from Rick:
re commenting system - "Very few have asked for this, so it is unlikely that we will implement without a lot more support."
re url prematurely created - "I'm not sure I understand your question."
re edit in markdown mode immediately - "this is in our queue"
re <!--more--> equivalent in markdown - "I will check on status of this to make sure it is added the next time we update this feature"
re automarkdown mail - "this is in our queue"
re markdown inline images - "this is in our queue"
My response got no response, so 3 weeks later I asked about any progress.
"Unfortunately, no meaningful progress - these are on our list, but not yet high enough on the priority queue for us to work on yet."
I ask again 2.5 months later.
"Your requests are still on our feature list, but not many people have requested them so they are not prioritized very highly. We're a small team with a lot still to add and are trying to focus on the features that will have the biggest impact."
Finally I was so frustrated that I suggested working myself on some of bugs/lacking features (free of charge, maybe t-shirt or something) as they are mostly easy to implement. I wrote also that it's sad that identi.ca problem was not solved.
"Thanks so much for your offer to help - to clarify, we did look at the identica problem and it's on our list too. Unfortunately, we can't easily open up our code to outside developers right now."
I mailed them no more, as you know, it was pointless.
For some time there was a forum available, when people reported their problems, bugs, etc. It was all the same - "it's in our queue, but not high enough."
Be honest - if you don't want to fix reported problems and hear about even simple enhancements, as you won't implement them how trivial they are (because it doesn't fit into your vision or whatever, I don't know), just say it clearly in public (on the page) or at least private (in the first response, I wouldn't bother you anymore).
The tragedy of the present times is mediocrity in everything, but software and web services in particular. Let's add some new flashy features no matter how buggy the rest is. Hopefully laymen will think that it supposed to be like that and technicians can be ignored - they are negligible minority.
Posterous might not have been as big as Tumblr, but it was big. It was obvious it's management had some lack of vision, since introducing Spaces and other confusing additions.
Even with all this, it is completely confusing to me seeing it sold to Twitter and just shutting down service.
I personally will not believe to use any service made by those guys, especially Posthaven looks ridiculous in light of how Posterous got miss-managed.
Having said all this, I am not judging founders for selling out, I think they did a good thing and it is their absolutely their right, probably could've gotten way more from someone else, but it's their decision, as online user, I just can't touch anything they make.
Not a surprise. I saw posterous as a better option for Tumblr, but after they create the "spaces" version I felt like lost. The original idea it was simple and worked, but after they got traction I think they lost the vision, and after twitter bought them they totally mess up. Well, good luck at twitter.
I really dislike that startups are acquired so often just so they are discontinued by larger companies. It feels very disingenuous. As if the only point is to be acquired and get a sizable amount of money.
It seems it is the only point in many cases. As an example, consider the vast amount of superfluous twitter-helper apps that were endlessly sprouting up a couple of years ago. I don't think many of them were seriously intending on starting a legitimate business out of a web application that helps twitter users keep track of the followers that didn't follow them back.
But I think a part of me would hate to see my blood, sweat and tears poured down the drain by a large company intent on remaining where they are (not that Twitter did exactly this but you get my meaning).
That might sound obvious, but it works and it's easy to setup. I left Posterous after they launched Spaces and went back to hosting my own Wordpress install. I host about 20 low traffic sites on a single Bluehost.com shared server that costs under $100 per year. Never had any issues. One click Wordpress install via SimpleScripts. It really doesn't get any easier.
My first regularly updated site in 96 was updated by hand; then I created a daily news site that was custom-roll; then I moved to Movable Type; then I custom-rolled again; somewhere in there I tried Drupal (for a year or so, not just a dalliance); then I used whatever RoR blogging engine was popular; then I got real and moved to Wordpress several years ago and haven't regretted it for more than a couple seconds, here and there. And those seconds of regret were more than made up for by the lack of crap I had to do myself. (And, naturally, nobody can shut MY wordpress blog down since I ran it on my own server and now WPEngine.)
Posthaven. If you liked Posterous, I promise you will like Posthaven. I was one of the cofounders of Posterous and wrote much of the site. Brett joined us as a cofounder and we really enjoyed working on it.
The difference this time is that we'll be 100% sustainable, and we are pledging to keep the site online forever. It's just me and Brett coding it right now.
Use a static site generator and then deploy to any low-cost static host (e.g., CloudFront). Odds are that you really don't need a dynamic backend when you can just deploy new static files for each update.