Blab shuts down with a loud, clear “Screw you”
Blab, a livestreaming startup with 3.9 million users, just shut down abruptly. Founder Shaan Puri’s message to the world is crystal clear. Unfortunately, he also treats his users like any other resource — they were useful for a while, but now he’s discarding them like an obsolete iPhone.
Blab had a good run. In addition to its impressive user growth, it attracted broadcasts from celebrities and media properties including Tony Robbins, Robert Scoble, and the UFC. Most users didn’t come back, but that’s pretty typical for a tool from a startup. So why pull the plug?
Blab’s farewell message is clear and direct
I’ve recommended direct, jargon-free corporate communication, using words like “we” and “you” to speak directly to the audience. That’s exactly what Shaan Puri provided in his farewell message on Medium. He explains what went wrong and what worked well. You should write like he does.
Puri starts with a title and lead that gets right to the point:
Blab is dead…long live Blab.
OK let’s rip the bandaid off:
Today is the last day of Blab. We’re shutting down the website and app, and focusing 100% on our new project.
Puri is just as clear about what went wrong:
What went wrong #1 —Most live streams suck.
Of the 3.9 million total users, only 10% (~400,000) came back on a regular basis.
Because most live streams aren’t interesting enough to justify stopping what they are doing to watch your broadcast.
The struggle with Livestreaming — is that we need to show you something awesome, that’s being made right now.
Turns out, that’s really tough. It killed Meerkat, and Periscope & FB Live are feeling the pain right now. Really, only Twitch has gotten it right with live streaming video games.
In live streaming, the churn is real.
How many corporate founders would write something as honest as “live streams suck”?
Puri’s “love ’em and leave ’em” attitude shows through
Having gotten the problems out of the way, Puri devotes the rest of the post to a highlighting the Blabs of his amazing users (you can’t call them customers, since they didn’t pay). It’s full of stuff like this:
#4— The shows
Cooking shows. Talk shows. Dating shows. Sports talk shows. Craft shows. & more.
Huge shoutout to everyone who put their talents on display for the rest of the world to see.
But there’s something missing. A human connection to the users. Puri admires their ingenuity and their love for his product. What does he offer in return? Only this:
You guys rock. Thank you for the good times.
That’s it. “You guys rock” and “Thank you for the good times.” He really makes you feel like you’ve been dropped at the end of a love affair, when it’s clear that the love was only a one-way thing.
Nearly 4 million people put their time — and in some cases, a lot of time — into Blab, but Puri treats them like lab rats — helpful tools in a useful experiment.
There is no apology for the shutdown, or for how abrupt it was. Because lab rats don’t need an apology.
The downside of clarity
If you express yourself boldly and clearly, everyone will see what you really think.
If you really think your users or customers are just part of experiment, they’ll see that.
Bold, clear expression is best leavened with some positive emotions. “Please” and “thank you” and “I’m sorry” are not weasel words. Communication is the basis of relationships, and relationships should be mutual, not exploitive.
So don’t bullshit us. But don’t be insensitive, either.
A final word from me to you
While we’re talking about it . . . thanks to all of you blog readers. You give me hope and encouragement every day. I feel very grateful that I have found people who connect with my message. I will never let you down, and I will never take you for granted. — Josh
“I will never let you down, and I will never take you for granted.”
What does this mean? On the surface it implies duration beyond reasonable warranties.
But don’t worry – your reputation will last beyond eternity.
He Rickrolled us. 😉
Josh, this is the first I’ve heard of Blab’s demise, and I’m really glad I heard it from you. Every time I hear, “build only on your own platform because otherwise it could disappear…” it’s sort of aggravating. Your post today brought crystal clarity to that concept for me, forever. Wow, talk about a kiss-off. Reminds me of the time I got dumped by voicemail. I thought that was cheap and low, but this was a guy dumping 3.9 million people at once. Wow, just wow… Thanks, Josh.
Oh noes, users rely on free app and get pissed when it goes away without warning!
I didn’t say he shouldn’t shut it down. I just said he should be a little nicer about it.
Kind of a balance sheet breakup. It doesn’t hurt much because I wasn’t much invested, but there was a scent of humanity missing.
btw, he’s correct, “most live streams suck.” And now Google is jumping in with their reorg of G+ into YT.
I’ve supported products marked for deprecation (often without any advance notice) and dealt with the rage of irate users and upset team members. It doesn’t matter if you’re at a large company or running your own startup, EOL is bloody painful. That said, your point is very well-taken. When it comes to delivering bad news, I think all CEOs can learn a few tips from Joel Gascoigne who is in a league of his own. https://open.buffer.com/layoffs-and-moving-forward/
Most of that post was pure fabrication. The user base was nowhere close to 3.9 million, and the churn was greater than 97%. If they had 3.9 million users with 400,000 regular users, the business should and would never get shut down. I could go on, but let’s suffice it to say that Blab was nothing more than an experiment. If you want a clearer understanding of Shaan Puri, read some of his other posts in Medium and I’m pretty sure you won’t get very far without throwing up a little in your mouth.