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Anil Dash

Hey Adam, first thanks for being a TypePad member and being one passionate enough to share your ideas with us. All of us who work with the TypePad team appreciate it.

As you might imagine, I've got a number of responses to the various points you've raised. I'd start by pointing out, as has all of us who've ever (mis?)quoted Stewart Brand, that he points out, at the same time and with the same focus, that information wants to be expensive. Here's the good news: Your information *is* free. Brand's argument was never about the cost of distribution, control, or sharing of information, but about the flow of ideas themselves, and we've been happy to help you share those ideas freely for years.

But I think that complexity, the complexity of the word "Free" in the English language, highlights the challenges of the argument you're making here. As I understand it, Renkoo's services are not free. If they are, please do correct me, and I've got a long list of widgets I need you guys to build for me immediately.

Assuming I understand correctly, you prefer some exchange of value for your services, and that's what makes your company sustainable. Interestingly, the same is true of every service you've listed. Let's present your examples a different way:

Flickr is ad-supported or a subscription. Vox is ad-supported. WordPress.com is ad-supported or a subscription or both. And Blogger is indirectly ad-supported. I'm going to put aside the inexplicably confrontational tone here (we're always happy to have you email us, or twitter us, or file a help ticket, if you've got feedback!), and assume it's just the naturally provocative voice we all have as bloggers. So, if we're being fair about this as entrepreneurs, then we realize you're saying you'd prefer an ad-supported blog to one you directly pay for.

Fair enough: We'll help you do that, if you'd like. We've got a robust media program that will put advertising on your blog so you can make money, or at least cover your costs. Or, as you pointed out, you can use Vox and we'll help you set that up as well. Hell, we'll help you put ads on your WordPress blogs as well.

But let's not pretend there aren't serious tradeoffs to using ad-supported blogging services for a professional, corporate blog. There is, first and foremost, the issue of control. WordPress.com introduced advertising onto blogs hosted there with no advance notice. Then, they decided to charge people to remove those ads. I'll leave it as an exercise for you if you would prefer to have a business partner that makes decisions about your corporate communications that way, but I can't imagine you want to rely on a site that you can't control for telling Renkoo's story.

But, hey! You can customize your site if you pay, right? Then you can make your blog look like it's part of the rest of your site. Well, it's worth noting that, if you decide to pay, you're... not getting something for (ad-supported) "free" anymore. And more importantly, you still wouldn't have control on your WordPress.com blog: You'd be able to have a handful of widgets, including things like the ability to list your recent post. On TypePad, there are *hundreds* of widgets, and you can build your own. Renkoo's partners and clients can easily make widgets that can be distributed on TypePad blogs and reach an audience of millions. And you can customize your HTML down to the pixel.

That's not to say you can't do that on WordPress.com. You absolutely can. For $6600 for the first year. The WordPress VIP program is yes, $500 a month (not free!) and inexplicably has a setup fee that costs more than half a decade of TypePad membership. Or you can stay ad-supported and then your company's competitiors can buy ads on your site that Automattic profits from. Which also seems.. suboptimal.

That's ignoring dozens of other features: From having professional support directly from us, to the first and best iPhone and mobile interfaces, to superior antispam and five times as many themes built in, you're getting a lot more for your money on TypePad than you are from WordPress. And if you add up all the nickel-and-dime services from WordPress.com, where you pay to use your own domain and then pay again if you don't want somebody else's ads on your site and then pay for a half dozen other options, TypePad's basic subscription actually comes in substantially cheaper.

So, as with everything, there's no such thing as a free lunch. We're happy to help you find an option where you're not having to pay a monthly subscription charge, or where advertising is subsidizing your costs. But I think it's just as important you retain ownership and control of your identity and presence online. And getting a comparable degree of control out of your WordPress blog would cost literally thousands of dollars a year. Which, I suspect, isn't going to be set free anytime soon.

We'll be in touch to help you find a good option going forward, and in the meanwhile, thanks again for taking the time to give us your feedback!

Jesse Andrews

While I love wordpress.com I highly recommend paying their $10 a year fee and using a subdomain of renkoo.com (and ifindkarma.com). That way incase wordpress.com becomes an issues you don't have to destroy all the existing links. I've been using this for some of my projects that use wordpress.com and it works pretty good.

Good luck on getting ifindkarma set free!

Jesse

ifindkarma

Anil, thanks for replying. You're right, I was referring to "free as in beer" not "free as in freedom", and though it's fun to conflate the two I actually did have a point.

Blogger, Flickr, Wordpress, Twitter, Facebook, and Renkoo are free for users. Yes, the companies are supported by ads and subscriptions for their heaviest users, but most users don't have much traffic and therefore don't need to pay, and that's the point I was making.

In other words: This blog is not popular, and it will never be popular, so turning on ads will not cover my costs.

And in the past two years I've been so busy I haven't had time to post at all -- and yet I still have had to pay for hosting. Imagine if Flickr tried to charge every user who posted one picture a year. Right now I feel like that person.

If Typepad moves to a traffic-based model, and makes its most basic tier free, you just might pick up more authors. If you don't, you're gonna lose authors, because not everyone has time to blog regularly, and if you're not gonna blog regularly, why would you want to pay when plenty of good free alternatives exist?

ifindkarma

Jesse Andrews does not have a Typekey account so I'm posting this for him...

Interesting conversation.

Regarding your comment: "Imagine if Flickr tried to charge every user who posted one picture a year. Right now I feel like that person."

Actually they do - once you stop paying the $25/year you lose access to all your old photos that you uploading when you were paying (you can only access the last 200 photos). I used to use the service a lot but not so much recently as my wife (emily) has been posting most of our photos. But I'm locked into paying two fees because I don't want to delete old content...

Not sure why Anil thinks you need VIP: "Because of the nature of this program it is not open to the general public, it is intended for existing high-profile publishers, or startups that we have a good deal of confidence in. You may be a good candidate for VIP hosting if, for example, you get more than 500,000 pageviews a month on your blog."

If you want a custom WordPress theme it only costs $15/year -- http://wordpress.com/products/ and removing ads is only $30/year.

So it looks like a total of $55/year for custom theme, no ads, and your own domain.

ifindkarma

Jesse makes some good points, and I want to make one, too.

TypePad offers no free alternative to WordPress for low bandwidth, infrequently-posting users:

With WordPress you can blog as much as you want for free, your blog can be public to the world or private for just your friends, and our premium features are completely optional.
I repeat: premium features are completely optional with WordPress. With TypePad, notsomuch.

ifindkarma

I've been thinking about Anil's comments some more.

The gist of what I heard Anil say -- and someone from Six Apart please correct me if I heard this wrong -- is that

  1. TypePad is not planning on changing anything, and
  2. In particular, TypePad will not offer a free bottom tier for casual and infrequent posters. Therefore,
  3. Since TypePad is the best, why can't I accept that and be happy?

I can't address points 1 and 2, but I can certainly address point 3. TypePad is not the best. WordPress is the best.

While there are plenty of great optional upgrades for WordPress.com, the best thing is your blog doesn't go away if you stop paying WordPress. On the other hand, the second I stop paying for my TypePad, Six Apart will completely delete it.

For example, if the 3 gigabytes of free space WordPress offers wasn't enough and I bought the $0.05 a day upgrade to take it to 8 GB... then later, if I didn't pay that next year, all of my files would still be available forever.

To get 8GB of storage on TypePad, I would need their Business Class service, at $90 a month or $2.95 a day, and if I stopped paying everything would disappear.

I also think that there's no validity to the claim that TypePad has a better iPhone app and better anti-spam. If we look empirically, WordPress's iPhone app has more reviews, higher reviews, and more users. Also, WordPress's anti-spam service runs on more than 6 million blogs. How many does TypePad's anti-spam service run on?

Those things aside, if it could afford to do so, strategically it makes perfect sense for Six Apart to make TypePad free to compete with WordPress.com just like they made Movable Type Open Source to compete with WordPress.org.

Ok, so why isn't TypePad free?

Here's a guess. Six Apart's free product Vox flopped, and the revenue from Typepad (and the firesale of LiveJournal) is what supports Six Apart's 200+ employees. So even though TypePad's usage is not increasing (as more people like me leave because they don't want to pay to post small amounts of content each year), Six Apart simply cannot afford to make it free.

And even though Anil gave me a plethora of reasons why I'm wrong, it appears that the market is agreeing with me. Both TypePad and WordPress use Quantcast so I can see an apples-to-apples comparison of traffic. Actually, I believe Automattic only includes WordPress.com-hosted things, whereas Six Apart bundles Vox, Blogs.com, TypePad, and a few other sites in there. But the difference is still quite pronounced:

WordPress vs. TypePad

I couldn't find any public stats for Six Apart, but I note that WordPress makes a number of its stats public, including raw numbers.

Wedding Girl

I think it is short sighted of typepad not to accomidate low volume users.

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I really enjoyed this intense conversation... I've actually been having these thoughts regarding typepad and wordpress for a while now. Typepad has some points though....but don't get me wrong I completely agree to have 2 gurus in the blogs world than to monopolize.

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