Pownce was a wonderful free microblogging platform. I loved using it, but our time together was brief. The service lasted six months before being scooped up by Six Apart and shut down.
I ran two blogs using Posterous. Initially it was an excellent (and free) blogging platform. Six months ago it was acquired by twitter. The Posterous FAQ claimed content export tools would be coming in "a few weeks". While the service is still running, it's clear that twitter intends to shut it down. Meanwhile, the promised export tools haven't materialized. If I were a more cynical man, I'd conclude that giving users the ability to cleanly export their content isn't a priority at twitterous.
I stopped writing on Posterous and switched to tumblr. Then I realized that although it has a staff of a hundred, and there are a gatrillion people using the platform to create googillions of tumblogs, nobody outside the company can figure out how they make money. Perhaps nobody inside the company can, either. If they had, they would have crowed about it, no?
The company has soaked up $125M in venture funding, but that doesn't mean they'll be around a year or two from now. Whether they get acquired like Posterous, crash Steve Austin style, or limp to an IPO before dying slowly, I have to wonder if they'll ever give me a clean way to get my content out.
Perhaps it's best to migrate yet again, this time to a platform that will be around for a while and will give me full control over the content I put into it. I won't have to worry about being subjected to clever new forms of advertising like promoted posts and paid content placement. That means I'll have to put my money where my mouth is and pay for what I want.
Although we've all become accustomed to using online services for free, the stark truth is that you really don't get something for nothing. Maciej Cegłowski, who runs the excellent Pinboard bookmarking service, puts it this way:
If you're not paying... then someone else is, and their interests may not be aligned with yours.
Cegłowski knows that people will pay for an online service; he has been running Pinboard profitably since he started it in 2009. How? By charging customers a one-time fee of just under $10. I can vouch for the quality of the service. I've been using it for a year and a half and am glad I made the switch from Yahoo's Delicious.
It's worth it to me to tie my content to a platform that is profitable, committed to giving me control over my content, and responsive to my needs rather than those of advertisers or founders desperate for revenue. So I'll likely move those tumblr blogs to Squarespace. In building a site for the Lelt Foundation, I discovered that Squarespace provides a flexible platform that works for web professionals and neophytes alike.
Squarespace costs $8 a month for standard capabilities, and $16 a month for an unlimited number of blogs, with unlimited bandwidth. A hundred and ninety-two bucks a year isn't cheap, but if you're serious about the content you publish online, if you put a lot of time and effort creating it, that's money well spent. To me it's worthwhile for another reason. Squarespace has been profitable from its first year, which means that they are in it for the long haul. They want to build a business rather than race as quickly as possible to a liquidity event.
I want to support online businesses that are adhering to the same principles I'd use to drive my own company: Provide something of value, get paid fairly, make a profit, and grow organically.
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