Microblogger shootout: Posterous Spaces vs. Tumblr

A new wave of free sites encourages fast blogging, multimedia entries and social networking.

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Social networking

Writing a message is all well and good, but the point of running a blog is to get the message out. Both Tumblr and Posterous Spaces have, in effect, created their own social networking sites -- one of the first setup steps you take in both sites is to find content from other Posterous Spaces or Tumblr users you like on both sites, and you are encouraged to cross-post content you enjoy to your own blog.

Posterous Spaces

When it's time to spread the word across other services, Posterous Spaces has the edge over Tumblr. By default, Posterous Spaces slaps Twitter and Facebook graphics discreetly at the end of every blog entry, so visitors can easily spread the word about any posting you make.

Posterous Spaces vs. Tumblr

Posterous Spaces can repost to a variety of services.

Click to view larger image

Furthermore, Posterous Spaces accounts can be set up to repost to other sites -- and unlike Tumblr, this feature doesn't just apply to typical text and graphics posts reappearing on Twitter and in Facebook news feeds. Posterous Spaces can also repost to video publishers YouTube, Vimeo and Blip.tv; photo sites such as Flickr and Picasa; and other blogging sites, such as Blogger, WordPress and Tumblr.

This makes Posterous Spaces a potential front-end for your entire online presence, which could prove to be a tremendous time-saver.

Tumblr

In terms of a built-in social network, Tumblr has a slight edge. In fact, Tumblr strives to be a social network all by itself and to a large extent succeeds. Tumblr fosters a vibrant network of bloggers by actively encouraging them to browse other Tumblr-based blogs. During setup, you're channeled towards browsing and picking content, which Tumblr then posts as updates (a la Facebook news feeds) into your Dashboard.

Each post from another blog that appears in your Dashboard has a handy little Reblog link in the top right, which is clearly a favorite among Tumblr users -- over the course of a few weeks, I found my material cross-posted on other blogs more than once, a fact that Tumblr was only too glad to inform me of via email.

Outside of its own network, Tumblr can automatically repost any blog entry you make to Facebook and Twitter once you authorize your account.

Posterous Spaces vs. Tumblr

Tumblr actively encourages users to reblog other Tumblr-based blogs.

Click to view larger image

However, these features require cooperation from Twitter and Facebook, and during part of this evaluation, I noticed that not all of my postings showed up on Facebook. Since I had the same issue with Posterous Spaces, the problem is likely on Facebook's end, but it does affect Posterous Spaces' and Tumblr's ability to deliver this feature.

In fact, even when things work seamlessly on Facebook's end, you still need to jump through hoops to enable automatic posting on business-only Facebook pages. (You need to grant admin privileges for business-only pages to a Facebook account with a personal profile, and then link the personal account to Posterous Spaces or Tumblr.)

Bottom line

Tumblr has a vibrant community all its own -- and if that meets your needs, then you have your champion. But if you're already established at several other sites like Facebook, Snapfish or Youtube, Posterous Spaces will repost your blogs there automatically with very little setup effort. For my money, this makes Posterous Spaces a winner in this category.

Traffic management

Posterous Spaces and Tumblr provide no built-in tools for analyzing site traffic, beyond a basic page counter. But they don't leave you high and dry when it comes to following viewing trends. Both recommend setting up an account at Google Analytics for site traffic and funneling RSS action through services like Feedburner. With this arrangement, you have these external services monitor your blog activity and crunch the data into information you can act on.

If it's accurate, strictly speaking, to say that Posterous Spaces and Tumblr provide the means to analyze visitor traffic, it's also accurate to say they provide the means to generate revenue from your site -- but once again, they don't provide the actual tools for the job. While browsing Tumblr and Posterous Spaces blogs, I noticed many that used third-party advertising and merchant services in their sites by embedding code from PayPal or AdSense. The capability is there, but neither site emphasizes it.

Posterous Spaces

When you're ready to move beyond mere page counters and the trends on your blog, Posterous Spaces provides accurate step-by-step instructions as to how to set up Google Analytics and somewhat sparser information about configuring Feedburner.

Basically, Google Analytics needs a tracking code embedded on each page of your site, and it collects data about visits to each page. Posterous Spaces made it a lot easier to implement this than some other sites: It requires you to enter an 11-digit code provided when you sign up for Google Analytics in a dialog box on a dedicated Posterous Spaces setup page. Posterous Spaces then spawns the tracking information that Google Analytics requires across all your pages.

The results aren't immediately apparent, but over the weeks, your Google Analytics account becomes the go-to site for tracking information on your blogs.

Tumblr

Tumblr also leaves the heavy-duty site traffic analysis to Google Analytics. To add Analytics tracking code to each page of your site, though, Tumblr makes you paste nine lines of Javascript to your site's description. This is somewhat messier than Posterous Spaces' approach, and Tumblr leaves you to figure out whether to paste the code before or after your actual text description. In my case, I must have picked wrong, because the formatting of my existing text description was messed up afterwards and I had to recreate it.

Bottom line

There's too little difference -- and too little overall -- in the way of traffic analysis and management tools to call a winner in this category.

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