RebelMouse founder Paul Berry on going from free to b-to-b

"It became increasingly obvious we wouldn't become a consumer-based, ad-supported company," the former Huffington Post chief technology officer told PRWeek.

NEW YORK: Digital publishing platform RebelMouse is phasing out its free product as it pivots from a consumer to business-facing company.

The startup, launched in 2012, told users in an email on Tuesday that it will no longer accept signups and will shut down its free product completely by September. Users logging into their RebelMouse accounts were greeted with a message alerting them to the end of the free product.

Former Huffington Post chief technology officer Paul Berry, who has been credited with building out that website’s SEO and social networking prowess, founded RebelMouse four years ago.

"It was emotional for me and the core team, because you have a gratitude for and loyalty to these people," Berry told PRWeek about the decision to end the free product. "But it became increasingly obvious we wouldn’t become a consumer-based, ad-supported company."

The free product gave the RebelMouse team experience to understand Twitter and Facebook at scale. Yet Berry said it was time for it to go back to "what they’re best at:" distribution and publishing.

"We had a moment where we played with the idea that the free product would become a new Twitter," Berry said. "But we decided not to go in that direction, because we would’ve been competing against Facebook and Twitter instead of being a partner. We saw that there needed to be a Switzerland between these social media giants."

The company rolled out publishing and targeting tools in recent years such as Rebel Runner, Rebel Roar, and Rebel Discovery. This month, it proclaimed Roar, a distributed content management system, as the first of its kind "within an industry that orbits around social distribution."

Companies such as United Airlines, Paper magazine, and The Dodo use RebelMouse as their distribution platform.

On the same day RebelMouse announced the imminent end of the free product, it posted a video showcasing Rebel Roar. It also shared a picture on Twitter of Arianna Huffington, Berry’s former boss, visiting its New York City office.

Asked about the nature of Huffington’s visit, Berry said, "I don’t know if I can say anything in detail, except to say we might possibly work with her."

He also teased the possibility that RebelMouse might eventually bring back its free product.

"We hope to find ourselves in a position that allows that hipster in Brooklyn to go viral, leave his or her job, monetize, and grow up their business," he said.

Similarly, in a blog post explaining the team’s decision, Berry wrote, "We're going to do that when you can bloom a distributed property with no budget, so that if or when free comes back to RebelMouse, you will be able to see the more real and full capacity we have been building."

As a thank you to customers with smaller budgets and companies, RebelMouse is offering "special grandfather pricing" of 60% off the licensing cost of Rebel Runner or Rebel Discovery for one year.

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