Early this week the Twittersphere and tech media were abuzz with the news that Yahoo would buy Tumblr. The rumours were confirmed when Yahoo's board approved the deal to purchase the six-year-old microblogging site for $1.1 billion in cash.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer tried to alleviate the concerns of skeptical Tumblr users (and Yahoo shareholders) promising the search giant "won't screw this up." If there's one winner made by the sale, it's Tumblr's 26-year-old CEO and founder David Karp.
Back in 2007, Karp was a 21-year-old living in his mother's small New York apartment when he founded his micro-blogging site Tumblr in his bedroom. Five years later, he is set to join the ranks of the social media billionaires.
A socially awkward teen with a passion for coding, Karp dropped out of school at 15 so he could be home schooled by his schoolteacher mother and pursue an internship at an animation production company. Karp eventually started his own software development consultancy and began his fascination with short form or micro-blogging – known as tumbleblogs. He expected one of the big blog websites to start their own microblogging site. When none of them did, he started his own.
What is Tumblr anyway?
Tumblr is one of the most underrated and difficult to define social media platforms. After all, Tumblr is both a blogging community (like Wordpress) and a social media platform (like Reddit, Pinterest or Instagram) for sharing all kinds of content from written posts to photos to videos. While the humble GIF has been around for 20 years, Tumblr has really made the sharing of GIFs – the short form video clips - into an artform.
Tumblr's ability to share any kind of content makes it unique. Facebook is ideal for sharing photos, but for now it lacks the capacity to organise them via hashtags. Twitter is still very text heavy. Tumblr is both well organised and highly visual.
While social strategists and social marketers often overlook Tumblr as a potential marketing or PR tool, Tumblr shouldn't be ignored. There is a relatively low intrusion of brands into Tumblr's organic and very passionate micro-blogging community, but Tumblr is a vibrant, active community full of cool, creative, funny content.
While it is dwarfed by the likes of Facebook and Twitter, Tumblr has nonetheless grown to a massive community – more than 107 million blogs have been created and more than 50 billion blog posts have been made since it was started.
At present, there are 70 million individual blog posts every day on Tumblr. Because every post is in small, easily digestable chunks, Tumblr is also highly addictive. Tumblr now receives more than 15 billion page views per month – more than Wikipedia and even Twitter.
Tumblr also caters to all kinds of content – from political memes (like the wildly popular Texts from Hilary) to protest blogs for the Occupy Wall Street movement to fashion and design blogs to news aggregation blogs. The diversity and creativity of the content on Tumblr is actually its greatest strength as a platform.
Oh, and I should mention, Tumblr content is uncensored. Unlike the strictly PG-rated Facebook, Tumblr is one of the few social media platforms that allows adult (including sexually explicit) content. This is obviously of consideration for social marketers and brand experts.
Tumblr has launched the re-election campaign of President Obama and launched the careers of comedians, writers, photographers and fashionistas. Already some media outlets, TV shows and brands – from Vogue to HBO – are starting to take notice, creating beautiful and curated Tumblrs of user-generated content. They join plenty of businesses in fashion, design, beauty, travel who've embraced Tumblr as a way of presenting their content.
So what will happen to Tumblr once Yahoo owns it?
The truth is no one knows yet. Many have raised their eyebrows as to whether the search engine behemoth paid too high a price for Tumblr – given the site only generated $13 million in advertising revenue. However, as many Tumblr users have bemoaned, Yahoo's acquisition will almost certainly see more paid and targeted advertising integrated into the platform.
Yahoo may also integrate the site with other platforms, such as its photo sharing platform Flickr. Some have suggested that Tumblr and Flickr could be rolled into a photo, GIF and video sharing super-platform to compete with Instagram and provide a way into Facebook's market.
If Yahoo tampers too much with Tumblr - censoring its content to make it family friendly, for example - the existing user community may desert the medium, leaving Yahoo with an empty vessel. While it may be a big gamble, this is undoubtedly Yahoo's entrée into social media, instantly bringing the corporation access to a cooler, younger and more savvy generation of users.