Will Tumblr be the next Instagram?

Despite once opposing the monetisation of blog content on its platform, Tumblr sold itself out to advertisers this week when it announced plans to start selling ads.

Seb Joseph

Tumblr has been somewhat in the background the past few months, with fellow social platforms Pinterest and Instagram getting all the attention. Yet Tumblr’s traffic has grown steadily over the last few months as the site proves to be a vibrant online community.

Tumblr’s founder and CEO David Karp has stated his ambitions to grow the site’s advertising revenues by promoting creativity among its users, particularly among those who want to highlight their own posts for a fee and buy more blog designs on Tumblr’s marketplace.

Up to this point, the blogging portal has monetised its traffic through Adsense and display advertising. But, while its revenue numbers show growth it has yet to find a way to be profitable.
Experts have questioned this strategy, raising the point that can a business really be a business without traditional advertising?

Tumblr’s move into paid advertising seems to answer that question. And marks a significant u-turn for the company and its founder who up until last week was insisting in an interview with AdAge that advertising was “a last resort.”

Perhaps the reversal has been influenced by the recent Instagram sale to Facebook, prompting Karp to bow to pressure from investors to implement a sustainable business model.
Whatever the reasons, it marks the end of an era for the popular blogging site and despite the site’s insistence that the branded posts are not ad units, it’s clear that priorities have changed over the last few weeks.

It’s worth noting that Karp has gone to great lengths to point out that Tumblr will not carry ads, instead the platform is getting “user orientated promotional features”, which sound like ads to me.

Tumblr has experimented with one-off promotions with brands in the past but there has never been a regular place to promote their content, until now.

The site has always been aimed more at individual users than at brands compared to rivals like Facebook and Twitter. This is what has probably been the reason why brands have flocked to the platform lately.

At the time of writing there are over 50m blogs and 20bn posts on Tumblr, made up of predominantly teen users.

Now that it has sold itself out to advertisers it’s only a matter of time before a deal is tabled to Karp and his team.

The question is will Karp’s commitment to creativity prevail when one of the major social players offers it the cash to make it the next Instagram-sized acquisition?

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