It’s a perfect coincidence that one week after we launched our latest report at Idealware, Exploring Cutting Edge Social Media
, Yahoo! continued its trend of absorbing startups with a distaste for the letter e (Flickr being the most notable) by purchasing micro-blogging giant Tumblr. The deal was made final today
. There is a bit of danger in calling yourself “cutting edge” in a field as dynamic as social media, but it doesn't affect the report dramatically, and more importantly, shouldn't really affect Tumblr, either.
Yahoo! seems to have heard the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and this time, might actually be taking it to heart. With CEO Marissa Mayer posting on her own Tumblr
that she promises “not to screw it up,” it would seem that Yahoo! wants to do its best to make dedicated users happy by keeping Tumblr as familiar as possible. In fact, not only will it not be adding a Yahoo! logo to the site, but Tumblr CEO David Karp and his entire team are reportedly staying at the helm for the foreseeable future.
Still, there are a lot of good questions one might ask about the acquisition. Is Tumblr going to stop being cool to young people now that it’s owned by a huge corporation? Is Tumblr going to be littered with annoying ads? Do I have to find a new place to post stories about my cats?
The answer to all these questions is a firmly neutral, "probably not." If Yahoo! makes good on its claim to leave Tumblr as is, there is no reason its users would run away. While young people are always looking for the latest and greatest thing, Yahoo! bought Tumblr in part to attract 18-24 year olds to its services, so it wouldn’t make sense to do something that would alienate them.
As for advertisements, nothing truly new is imminent yet. Big brands have been on Tumblr for a while now. Like any social media outlet, it’s great advertising that only really costs staff time. With that, Yahoo! is looking to add “featured Tumblrs” of sorts--specifically, a dashboard on the homepage that advertises a few paid sponsors’ pages.
Maybe there will be an influx of brands to Tumblr in the near future, but it won’t likely be all that noticeable. Successful brand pages on Tumblr aren’t really full of advertisements. They’re full of content meant to engage with people, make them laugh, get them to ask questions, and remember the brand. For now, big, flashy banner ads and pop-ups don’t seem likely. If they really wanted be the social network apple of my eye, they could offer a “Tumbling for Good” program, similar to the one StumbleUpon employs, that features one outstanding nonprofit Tumblr each month, but I'm not holding my breath for that.
If you read our recent report, Exploring Cutting Edge Social Media
, and you want to fully invest your resources into Tumblr, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but perhaps now is not the best time. While I don’t think Yahoo! buying Tumblr will make a huge impact on the site, the safest strategy is to wait and see. If you’re already on Tumblr and thinking of abandoning ship, again, I recommend you wait and see. While social media changes rapidly, it doesn’t happen overnight. Tumblr isn’t suddenly uncool, and Yahoo! isn’t suddenly the hippest place on the internet. Although, the way it is trying to listen to its audience makes me think that it might be one day.
The recent redesign to Flickr is excellent, and the fact that users get an entire terabyte of photo storage for free is pretty remarkable. With Tumblr, Yahoo! is asking potential sponsors
to think about advertising that will work for the medium. If a business the size of Yahoo! is really willing to hear ideas about what to do with its latest billion dollar project, I’m impressed, and definitely excited to see what will come out of it.