Twitter this week announced the acquisition of blogging platform Posterous.
As with other similar deals, such as the Facebook takeover of Gowalla, the exact details have been kept secret, though Posterous’s team said they “couldn’t be happier” with the move.
So what is the exact motivation behind the buyout and what does Twitter want with Posterous’ team and tech?
We asked six experts for their view on this latest acquihire…
What do you think is the motivation behind the takeover?
Tanya Goodin, CEO of Tamar
Twitter talk about buying “people and technology”, but it’s hard to see what really cutting edge tech they’ve bought, this looks entirely like a ‘people’ buy to me.
Twitter are extremely keen to tie-in as tightly as possible to Apple (especially the iPhone) and in buying Posterous they’ve now got their hands on some top Apple talent.
Not only the obvious in CEO Sachin Agarwal who was at Apple for six years as a software engineer, but also ex-Apple engineer Adam Huda who was responsible for core parts of iPhone system and who also worked on the MacOS. Useful.
Jonny Rosemont, head of social media at DBD Media
Twitter has a history of acquiring companies to gain talent, and this deal is ultimately about the acquisition of both talent and technology.
The team at Posterous have developed a platform that is slick in design and seamlessly enables you to share content.
Their core team, several of them ex-Apple employees, have a deep understanding of the Apple iOS, and such knowledge and experience will help Twitter’s drive to integrate more deeply with the iPhone and the iPad, and will increase the focus around mobile.
The acquisition could also be seen as a move to counteract Tumblr’s rise.
Adrian Goodsell, head of social media at Steak Digital
Well it certainly doesn’t look like it’s because Twitter needs a personal blogging platform in its stable as Tumblr (which is famously ‘not for sale’) and WordPress have shared the winnings on that race.
It doesn’t make sense commercially for Twitter to buy the runner up when it’s so far behind and try to reverse its fortunes when Twitter has been struggling for so long to make its own commercial model work.
If you read the wording of Twitter’s announcement it more-than suggests a landgrab for talent rather than a genuine interest in the Posterous platform.
Of course, I could be totally wrong and Twitter may have bigger plans for its platform through assimilation of Posterous… it just doesn’t feel right.
Steve Richards, MD at Yomego
One motivation might actually be the rise of Pinterest. Posterous has been slightly forgotten but for many users it worked as a mixture of Twitter and Pinterest – a way to share, broadcast or preserve interesting articles, photos or videos.
Its ‘email to post’ mechanism also attracted a lot of people who might have been daunted by normal blogging platforms.
It has always been successful as a means of sharing visual media – everyone from aspiring photographers, to new parents sharing newborn photos on a private account.
Will Francis, director of creative social media company Harkable
From the tone of Twitter’s communications this sounds very much like a talent acquisition first and foremost.
Jordan Stone, senior account director, We Are Social
It would appear that this is very much an acquisition of skill.
With Posterous, Twitter will be able to tap into 36 fresh brains, including that of Posterous founder Sachin Agarwal, who played a significant role at Apple for six years before leaving to form Posterous.
What services can Posterous offer Twitter that it doesn’t already have?
Ignoring the cynical ‘it’s all about people’ angle for a moment, Posterous was the pioneer of the ‘cross post’ which allowed you to post to your Posterous Space and automatically populate Facebook and Twitter.
This is a huge and growing area as the management of multiple social platforms becomes an increasing headache to users.
If Twitter decide to own that space and develop flexible functionality around the ‘cross tweet’ then Posterous could well give them a handy head start.
The biggest buzz phrase in the industry right now is content curation, what with the likes of Google+, Facebook and Pinterest providing options for users and brands to develop a dialogue around great quality content.
The combination of Twitter and Posterous could lead to a pretty compelling proposition.
Already Twitter has a great association with the news agenda and any tweaks to include long form content would be truly fascinating.
Content on Posterous is also longer form which brings many new opportunities – including an ability to explain news and views in greater detail i.e. “do you want to tweet longer to explain?”
This, if implemented well, could bring more stickiness to Twitter and presents great opportunities to consumers, news organisations and brands alike.
Well Twitter is micro-blogging, confined to the shortest of forms.
Both Tumblr and Posterous emerged as frontrunners in networked mini-blogging, somewhere between more traditional blogging and micro.
Many prolific Tweeters also run some form of blog so it could make sense to try to own that space.
Posterous is more flexible and very visual, and the broadcast mechanism is obviously not limited to 140 characters.
If the service is maintained and improved, it could even become the natural tool by which eager tweeters progress into full blogging; a social ‘stepping stone’.
Twitter has grown more content-rich over the years, and Posterous brings valuable expertise in multimedia publishing in convenient ways.
Posterous has an ’email your content to post it’ functionality, and for Twitter to the email to post would potentially make it easier for people to tweet content – especially from behind a corporate firewall.
But I think there’s a bigger consideration – whether Twitter will be moving into Tumblr’s territory.
Combining the ease with which you can post content from Posterous with Twitter’s massive user base could make things very interesting.
Twitter’s user base is huge and people obviously enjoy using its service – should Twitter be more focused on improving its ad revenues than potential changes to functionality?
Twitter is hitching its wagon to Apple and the iPhone star and in acquiring this group of people this is very MUCH a revenue-focused move, just not in quite as obvious a way as usual.
Twitter is slowly making changes to its advertising solution, rolling it out to various markets and to SMEs.
This should remain a major area of focus for the business as progress has been slow compared to its main competitors.
The acquisition, if we are right about the aim to integrate more seamlessly with mobile, should accelerate revenue growth, rather than detract from this focus.
Platforms have to evolve to survive and flourish. Particularly if they’re struggling to improve ad revenues/successfully monetise.
I don’t see why this can’t be part of Twitter’s drive to improve its ad revenues.
If integrated properly, it widens Twitter’s estate in a complementary way.
I believe that Twitter is in danger of becoming over-complicated as a service.
Its beauty is, or rather was, in its simplicity. History shows that those who over-diversify become vulnerable.
It’s exactly what happened to us at Myspace. Twitter should continue to focus on making the service as robust and accessible as possible.
They need to maintain healthy growth and user retention first and foremost, or else they will lose an audience to show ads to.
As a business it should focus on both. Ad revenues are essential for a business like Twitter to survive in the long term.
But if Twitter doesn’t continue to innovate, there’s the potential that casual users may get bored of the service and stop using it, start leaving or switch to whatever is ‘new’.
Twitter has a worryingly high level of inactive users and it needs to encourage these people to start getting involved in the conversation, while also keeping its eye on attracting new users.
Facebook is constantly reinventing itself and has made a number of functionality changes since inception, and although these are often met with initial resistance, in general users have embraced them and it’s helped grow the site’s popularity.
Does this spell the end of Posterous as an independent site?
Undoubtedly. My money’s on it being quietly folded by the end of 2012.
In the long run I think so, but it looks like Twitter has a strategy around this. Both Twitter and Posterous have communicated to their users that they will be able to back up Posterous content to another service.
It would be fascinating indeed if Twitter itself ends up being this platform. That would represent a game changer for them.
It seems foolish if Twitter doesn’t have a plan for the reported 15m Posterous users.
Yes, I believe it does – soon keeping Posterous up and running will become a commercial burden for Twitter.
I feel a little bad for users who adopted Posterous as their blogging platform of choice but then on the other hand, as this blog post rightly points out, it does not make sense to build your house on shifting sands.
Particularly if you don’t own those grains of sand and have no influence on where and how they shift.
OK, I’ve totally exhausted the metaphor there but it sort of makes sense.
I hope not. Posterous is a democratic and simple blogging / curating tool.
As image-based browsing grows (see Tumblr / Pinterest), and copyright issues aside, Posterous could be successful in its own right, especially now it’s backed by Twitter’s data, infrastructure and cash resources.
Twitter mention providing Posterous users with a way to back up their content and move to another service in the near future.
This suggests that like so many recent acquisitions, the Posterous product will be sunsetted eventually.
And anyway, there won’t be a team to look after the existing product now, let alone develop it in future.
At this stage, it doesn’t seem as if Twitter has any intention of getting involved with the product at all, but is looking to bring the considerable brain power it acquired in to the Twitter fold in order to make Twitter even better.
It was interesting though, that both official statements from Twitter and Posterous said they would ‘give users ample notice if we make any changes to the service’ which probably means such changes are quite likely.
‘Acquihires’ are a growing trend. Is this essentially the new media way of headhunting staff?
Absolutely. The currency of Silicon Valley has always been people and there’s been a huge and concerted effort to lure top talent away in recent years.
Acquiring a business where the talent hold stock is a nicely tax-efficient manoeuvre for all concerned.
Yes. There is a shortage of talent at the cutting edge of digital media, and acquisitions are frequently about gaining access to talent, particularly software engineering talent.
Hiring smart tech people who really get it is very, very tough.
It’s inevitable that the big players will look to hire through acquisition as they look to evolve and grow their propositions.
It’s not a new phenomenon though, is it? I distinctly recall my Dad explaining proudly to me that his smaller accountancy firm was acquired by a larger one primarily to bring in the top talent (I think he included himself in that category) and that was in the 80s.
‘Aquihires’ sounds like a new term for it though and we do tend to get excited about newly-coined terms in the marketing industry.
They’re inevitable in cash-rich sectors with exponential growth.
Parent companies are happy to pay a premium if the talent and technical knowledge is relevant and scarce.
In the technology and media industry many of the most talented, dedicated and ambitious people around work at startups that they either own or have a major role at.
Hiring people of this calibre is expensive and nigh on impossible, so identifying great pieces of tech and hiring the people behind them can make sense.
Also, elements of the acquired technology are likely to be used, but not necessarily in highly visible ways (e.g. database architecture) so it’s not always the expensive recruitment exercise it seems.
Quite possibly. Or at least, a new way of headhunting staff en masse.
The pool of talent within the online tech / social media industry is growing, but is still fairly limited.
An ‘acquihire’ like this is no doubt an effective way of picking up a whole group of engineers and product managers, without a long and painful recruitment process.