Tumblr’s unclear future

Brian Feldman, New York Magazine:

The future of Tumblr is still an open question. The site is enormously popular among the coveted youth crowd — that’s partly why then-CEO Marissa Mayer paid $ 1 billion for the property in 2013 — but despite a user base near the size of Instagram’s, Tumblr never quite figured out how to make money at the level Facebook has led managers and shareholders to expect.


For a long time, its founder and CEO David Karp was publicly against the idea of inserting ads into users’ timelines. (Other experiments in monetization, like premium options, never caught on: It’s tough to generate revenue when your most active user base is too young to have a steady income.) Even once the timeline became open to advertising, it was tough to find clients willing to brave the sometimes-porny waters of the Tumblr Dashboard.


It is rare, but not at all unprecedented, for a site to reach Tumblr’s size, prominence, and level of influence and still be unable to build a sustainable business.

Tumblr is important. Twitter is important. Both have huge audiences, audiences that are vital, vibrant, and active. Neither has quite figured out how to turn those huge audiences into enough money to keep shareholders happy and keep the lights on.

I love both, but see Tumblr more as a publishing venture and Twitter more as vital infrastructure. Will Verizon have the patience to keep Tumblr alive until it can find a revenue path? I hope so. But I can’t help thinking that there’s a change that is coming to Tumblr’s underlying charm, either way.

Interesting read, all the way through.

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