On what, I think, is the day before tumblr runs it’s first purchased advertisements, the tumblrverse is surprisingly quiet. To be sure, this is a soft roll-out of sorts and nothing like what we see on FB or Twitter. From the AdAge piece earlier this month:
AdAge: Not one revenue plan, but many?
Mr. Karp: And that’s the question we’ve been talking about with our investors: Is it better to break things up and optimize? I don’t think there’s much precedent for it. If you look at Google and Facebook, they’re ubiquitous platforms that scale the whole way through. Adwords isn’t a particularly useful or creative platform for a band debuting their first album or a photographer trying to get that gig. There’s a novel opportunity there, and we want to explore that as much as we want to make it easy for partners to participate in our network.
As Newsweek noted in their latest issue, tumblr is growing up. Ads are obviously critical, but so is maintaining the platform that makes tumblr fun and important. From the WSJ:
"Derek Gottfrid, the company’s vice president of product who currently oversees revenue, said that the idea is to use the visual nature of Tumblr to let brands create campaigns that emphasize pictures, video and text."
The critical word here is campaign. There’s no way of knowing how a campaign on tumblr will manifest itself. I forget where I read this, but it was a quote about corporations abandoning their internal blogs, which are notoriously awful, for tumblr.
With that said, what we don’t want to see, or at least what I don’t want to see, is BMW or Revlon showing up with a multi-million dollar campaign. Even if the imagery, video and text are really nice, my gut tells me tumblr would eat something like that alive. On the opposite end of the spectrum you have the Newsweek tumblr which, in my mind, has masterfully taken full advantage of what tumblr offers. So much that I bought a print subscription even though I don’t really read it. Not quite the same product as BMW, but Newsweek is careful to be as organic as possible. Something on rails won’t jive with tumblr. Among many other reasons, users come here to get away from being targeted (whether they know it or not). For myself, going to FB is like going to Wal-Mart. I run in and quickly grab all the crap I need and run out. It’s a fairly traumatizing experience. Tumblr is like wandering around a huge convenience store when you’re stoned. But with softer lighting.
Instead of the Facebook “we know your fetus’s sex before you do” approach, tumblr may want to look to Twitter in terms of speed of integrating advertising. Slow but steady. Obviously the platforms are completely different, but it’s not hard to see how tumblr can pull it off. Though maintaining the “visual nature” of tumblr is paramount.
Tumblr has gone so long without advertising, that I think many, if not most tumblrs, tend to forget that it costs a boatload of money to keep the site running. And if past changes at tumblr tell us anything, it’s that people will notice. Creating a site that has tens of millions of die-hard, ravenous, kainotophobic users creates a very obvious slippery-slope. Though, people tend to forget quickly as well.
At the risk of this turning into a lovefest post, tumblr should be psyched about growing up, and trying to take a different route in terms of revenue in social media.
In summation, here’s a video of Jim Gillette.