Some downsizing and refocusing is underway at Disqus, the startup incubated at Y-Combinator that became an early mover inthe business of offering a plug-in to help onlinepublishersmanage comments on stories. TechCrunch has learned and confirmed that the company has laid of 11 people, about 20 percent of its small staff, as it prepares to shift its business deeper into data services for publishers and advertisers.
The cuts have been made in several departments, from sales through to engineering as part of the company rebalancing its priorities in light of that shift.
Disqus, co-founded in 2007 byDaniel Ha(who is still its CEO)and Jason Yanand with only $10.5 million raised in funding in all that time, is perhaps best known for its free commenting platform, which is in use across millions of websites and other communities today.
But more recently Disqushas been trying out other things to expand its business.That has included a growing programmatic ad platform based around sponsored comments, which debutedin 2014 (its this that makes the company money, as Disqus takes a share on ads that run through its otherwise free platform). And earlier this year, Disqus opted for another traffic gain as it relaunchedof its own site as a central repository not just of content and comments from sites that you follow and comment on with a Disqus ID; but also of standalone comment threads that existedindependent of these, Reddit-style.
Its not clear how well those consumer efforts have gone, but from what Ive heard the plan is to halt them as Disqusturnsto itsB2B focus. The neweffort will be builtout of the (anonymised) data that passes through Disqus platform which seessome 2 billion monthly unique users.
Disqus plans toreveal more details next year about these new data services, butone likely areait will focus on is marketing tech. Given how Disqus has used some of its data to help grow its own ad business, it could perhaps turn to offering data analytics to publishers and advertisers for more insight into what consumersare readingand discussing.
While Disqus was a an early and leading player in the world of online comments,times have changed. In addition to Facebooks aggressive move into the online comments(it replaced Disqus for us here at TC, not quietly), there areother competitors like Livefyre, which is now owned by Adobe and shifting its own businesspriorities.
Along with allthat,the nature of how people interact with content online has changedin recent years, with many now taking to social media to troll, fight trolls, and sometimesengage in spirited debate, rather than do it on sites, underneath the articles that got them thinking or outraged in the first place.
From what I understand, its a small team at Disqus, only around 55 people, so cuts like these dont come lightly. Good luckto them all.