Thoughts on Tumblr and Yahoo (in rebloggable form, upon reader request)
obitoftheday asks: What do you think happens if Yahoo buys Tumblr? And why do we all agree that it seems like a bad idea?
» SFB says: I think Tumblr starts monetizing itself more effectively. For years they’ve tried to do everything but the obvious, but the problem is, they’ve turned down a lot of good ideas as a result.
(Comparison: WordPress.com has succeeded at profitability by both offering paid premium features and revenue sharing-style advertising for bloggers—both things Tumblr has chosen not to do, but could arguably do better than WordPress if it chose to do so. Nobody really complains about Wordpress’ ads. Think that might be because they created a context for it that didn’t bug users?)
But this could come at the cost of a very strong community. I know of one heavily-active user I liked reading, The Callus, who has quit Tumblr and deleted all of his posts as a result of the whiff of a rumor of this buyout happening. I don’t think you or anyone else should follow suit, but that’s what people are doing.
As for the “bad idea” chunk of your questions, the problem is this: Yahoo has a reputation for letting acquisitions flounder under its corporate structure. Even the big ones. Delicious, for example, was nearly shut down before the founders of YouTube swooped in and saved it. And Yahoo has also tried the user-generated market before, including with Geocities and Yahoo Meme (which was effectively Yahoo’s failed attempt to create a Tumblr clone). Yahoo has a long list of discontinued products. And while Laurie Voss has a good point about Flickr, there’s a better point here: Building a community with integrity is tough, and change at the top can ruin everything if done the wrong way. I can understand why people might be worried. I’m worried, too. — Ernie @ SFB
P.S.: One key line from the story we linked last night: “sources say the company only has a few months of cash runway left.” Who knows if that’s true, but this is a company that unceremoniously fired its editorial team recently—a move that could be seen in a different light considering that line, though that’s speculative. Tumblr can’t run on dreams and reblogs and investor money forever. Something has to change on the business front to ensure the likes can keep coming. That change can come from the inside, but the change can come more easily from an exit.