Posterous vs. WordPress and TypePad


Chuck Taylor and I are working on an early stage business idea. Wanting some help to move it forward, we submitted it as a proposal to Y Combinator. Per their instructions, the application included videos, which Y Combinator required to be submitted through Posterous. (A reason why they required the use of Posterous might be that Y Combinator funded Posterous…)

In the end, they didn’t select our application. (Oh well.)

Between my experience using Posterous, positive ink on ReadWriteWeb, and reading a few glowing articles and tweets, I’m left scratching my head. Posterous is OK, but I don’t understand why someone would use it instead of systems like WordPress or TypePad.

Lifestreaming

The first and most claimed attraction is that Posterous makes lifestreaming easy. You may not choose to digitally serialize your daily life, but some people do. I’m somewhere in the middle of the spectrum — I tweet multiple times per day, and write on my blog about once per week, but I don’t care to store all of my life’s experiences in digital form.

When you visit Posterous’ site, you’re given the hook that “Posterous is the dead simple place to post everything. Just email us.” And that’s true. You just send them an e-mail, and you’re lifestreaming.

But wait, there’s more.

You’re lifestreaming…but:

  • To claim your Posterous page, you have to go through a little song and dance. It’s no harder than claiming a page on any other blogging service, but it’s more than “just email us.”
  • To change your Posterous page’s theme from their default, you first have to login to your admin page. Same as any other blogging service.
  • To change your password, ditto.
  • To enable other contributors, add web analytics, or add a syndication feed, ditto.
  • To change your profile or notification settings, ditto.
  • To do anything other than post a simple article to your blog, ditto.

So yes, you can do everything by email! Assuming that you define “everything” as, “only write a simple post.” Doing anything else requires their admin interface.

That’s better than WordPress or TypePad, right?

No, it’s not. WordPress also lets you post by email, as does TypePad.

Posterous does have a couple of advantages that might be noteworthy for some bloggers. It lets you set up a custom domain for free, while WordPress and TypePad charge a small fee for that. (OTOH, WordPress or TypePad could offer it for free by just flipping a bit in their billing system.) Posterous also lets you host videos for free (and transcode them into Flash (which, ahem, altered the audio-video sync in one of my video experiments)), while this is also not free in the other systems.

What about real-time updates? WordPress supports RSSCloud, while Posterous and TypePad support PubSubHubbub. Which protocol will win in the end, or whether they will coexist or merge, is anyone’s guess.

So…What?
Free video hosting is easier to provide when you have few users. If you produce a lot of video, I think you’ll want the finer control provided by WordPress and TypePad. The custom domain hosting is nice, but the WordPress and TypePad domain fees are small. And both of these advantages are counter-balanced by all the other features not provided by Posterous.

I dunno. I think this mostly amounts to baloney marketing spin perception. TypePad and WordPress are perceived as more complicated than Posterous. But they’re only more complicated because they have boatloads more features and support. They’d be just as simple if you used only a small feature subset.

This is similar to the netbook ballyhoo. A netbook is just the equivalent of a five year-old laptop. Slower processor? Check. Smaller disk? Check. Less screen resolution? Check. So why not instead buy used laptops? True, their form-factor is bigger, and their warranties are expired; both of these have real negative value. But a netbook’s capabilities are simply that of older hardware. I’m sure many shoppers don’t realize this.

And so I wonder about Posterous. If you want a limited blogging service, why not just use WordPress and ignore most of the features?

I’m puzzled that Y Combinator decided that a simpler blogging interface was a viable business idea and worthy of investment. I’m also puzzled at why a blogger would use Posterous instead of just using the defaults in WordPress or TypePad. I want to believe there’s a paradigm shift here, but I don’t see it. What am I missing?

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5 comments
  1. > If you want a limited blogging service, why not just use WordPress and ignore most of the features?

    That’s not how you create software that billions of people can use. You have to approach it from the ground up in a different, simplicity-oriented way.

    Really sorry you didn’t get the interview with YC. Keep at it. You don’t need a permission slip to create something great.

  2. JeffMc said:

    Personally, I have found SquareSpace to be the best blogging site. Simple, yet more powerful than Posterous. I have used Posterous while mobile, and i agree with your assessment. I have used Blogger, WordPress, and Typepad. SquareSpace to me, is not just a blogging platform, but a great place for your “lifestream”

  3. John, You have many valid points. Posterous isn’t really doing anything that other tools can’t do, but the real brilliance of Posterous is in the way that it hooks you.

    In order to become a WordPress customer (for example) you have to think “I want to start a blog” and then go about setting it up.

    With Posterous, you might hear about the PosterousPic app for iPhone and download it (free) from the app store. You snap a pic, it’s in your iPhone’s camera roll just like using the iPhone’s built-in camera app but *bang* you just started a posterous blog. Maybe down the road you’ll do some customizing and configuring to make your blog better, but that comes later. Maybe you’ll configure auto-post and now every time you take a pic, it will post a tweet and/or a facebook status update, but again, you’ll think about that later.

    OR, you use Tweety (the current leader in iPhone twitter apps). You play around in the settings and pick Posterous as your image service. Now when you create a tweet with a picture for the first time, you get a DM from… yourself… telling you that you have a Posterous blog.

    Posterous doesn’t have a better interface or feature set. It just has a better timed sales pitch. They get you using their service without thinking about it, and then they sell you on taking baby steps until finally you’re fully immersed in it. It really isn’t dead simple to use. It’s dead simple to fall into using by accident.

    I also do think that Posterous has done some really innovative thinking around what to do with more than one photo from a single day/event. The front-end user interface is intuitive and the way that pics are fed in by the “lifestreamer” is also smart.

    I just recently started using Posterous and I love it for what it is. I wouldn’t use it for some things, but for “lifestreaming” I think it really hits the mark. The real trick is, I don’t think I would have even bothered to start a blog. I kept meaning to. But Posterous started one for me and I’m actually using it.

  4. jamie said:

    Your post reeks a little bit of “I don’t see the advantage, it doesn’t do anything for me, so it must not be that great”.

    It doesn’t do anything for you, fine. But I certainly love it. I’ve used WP for years, and I won’t be going back. Of course, I still have it since posterous sends my posts to it along with everywhere else I choose, but I’m quite happy I don’t have to open that godawful WP admin page.

    Posterous feel light and fast and fun. I’m glad WP still works for you, but Posterous works for me, far better than WP or Tumblr.

  5. Yeah I don’t see the deal in Posterous. Posting by email? Now what?

    I think twitter become so popular in so little time, is because it’s damn’ stupid to use: send a text message and you’re done.

    Even a excellent blogging platform like wordpress requires some work to publish a blog post.

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