Amid Twitter’s Turmoil, Tumblr Tries for a Comeback

By: Kaydee Ambas · December 13, 2022 · Reading Time: 3 minutes

Social Media Swap?

In 2007, when Twitter was also in its infancy, social media site Tumblr made its debut. Since then, the company has gone through several ownership changes, first in 2013 when Yahoo (VZ) bought the microblogging site for $1.1 billion.

Yahoo had planned to draw in advertising revenue from Tumblr’s youthful and highly-engaged user base, but those plans never materialized. By 2016, the value of the Tumblr acquisition had been written down by $712 million. To make matters worse, the site’s user count tumbled when adult content was banned in 2018.

Now, Tumblr’s executives are hoping for a comeback. The site started advertising on Twitter last month, hoping to take advantage of some users’ dislike for changes brought on by new CEO Elon Musk.

What Makes It Unique?

Tumblr sells advertising in various ways, including standard banner ads and sponsored social media posts. Advertisers can also pay to “takeover” the entire site, or to pair with artists through the Creatrs program. The social media company rolled out Tumblr Blaze this past April, offering individual accounts wider exposure.

But one of Tumblr’s most defining features is being different from platforms like Facebook (META), Instagram, and TikTok. Rather than focusing on the viral or popular, Tumblr caters to the niché and quirky.

Social media observers note that advertisers have had success reaching less-traveled corners of the internet, such as die-hard communities of TV show, movie, or comic book fans. But while that may be appealing for some brands, advertisers tend not to pay top dollar for “quirky.”

Tumbling Uphill

Automattic, best known as the owner of blogging platform WordPress, bought Tumblr from Verizon in 2019. Since then, it has allowed some adult content to return, and started selling subscriptions and add-ons as a way to supplement advertising revenue.

The company says it offers advertisers access to Gen Z consumers, who make up 54% of its user base. It’s most focused on growing its overall number of users, and some of its advertising on Twitter may be having an impact. Per Automattic’s CEO, Tumblr downloads increased 58% on Apple devices and 57% on Android devices in the first week of November, days after the sale of Twitter.

But it’s a big hill to climb. Sites like Instagram and Facebook logged over 2 billion active users in October, compared with Tumbler’s 18.4 million unique views that month. This gap may pose a challenge for the company’s management – but for its singular user base, it’s likely just the way they like it.

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