Tumblr

I read this in an analyst report published on Yahoo! yesterday:

We believe Tumblr is an underappreciated asset with fast growing user base and engagement levels. We think Tumblr may actually be capable of creating as much value as Yahoo! core.

It’s not clear to me how much value the “Yahoo! core” has so it is not possible to put a number on this statement. But it is telling.

I have been using Tumblr every day for almost seven years now. USV invested in Tumblr in the fall of 2007 and we ceased being investors last year when Tumblr was sold to Yahoo! in May.

I still use Tumblr every day. I think it keeps getting better and better. My feed today is incredible. As it was yesterday and the day before.

The magic of Tumblr is that it sits between Twitter (short form) and WordPress (long form) and fills a gap in the world of blogging that nobody else has managed to capture. There are elements of Facebook and Instagram in it as well. So it’s a lot like all of these apps but in the end it is like nothing else. It has a soul and pulse and a vibe that other social apps don’t have. At times, it is simply magic.

When Tumblr was sold to Yahoo! a lot of people thought that spelled the end of Tumblr. I was not particulalry worried because I knew that David was committed to sticking around and Yahoo! was committed to leaving Tumblr alone. Nine plus months later, I think we can all say that to date the marriage has worked out well for the Tumblr users. The product has never been better and it feels as alive today as it did when I first logged in almost seven years ago.

So I agree with Carlos (the analyst who wrote the line I opened this post with). Tumblr is underappreicated. It always has been. But not by me. I love Tumblr.

#Weblogs

Comments (Archived):

  1. Tom Labus

    I don’t see a happy ending for the current YHOO and Marissa’s shopping spree. Maybe Tumbler is the next incarnation of YHOO

  2. awaldstein

    Big believer in the magic of Tumblr.I get a lot more than I give and cruise there daily.I know why I love it. I have no idea what Yahoo is about or why it exists though.

    1. John Revay

      Who is Yahoo?

      1. pointsnfigures

        not sure they know internally, and if they do they haven’t articulated it to the marketplace yet. but, I am not shorting them yet.

  3. William Mougayar

    Yes, they nail the intersection of Discovery & Expression, and their search has gotten way better.I’m not seeing native advertising though (but not complaining about that).

    1. awaldstein

      Having checked search in a long while but will.Native advertising–what’s that?

      1. William Mougayar

        🙂 whatever you wanted to be.native advertising = invisible or pleasant advertising, the way it should have always been.

        1. awaldstein

          ‘pleasant advertising?”possibly the only example of advertising that I can remember that is both amazingly effective and pleasant is the early ipod billboards.early tv advertising was bad from the beginning. there was a heyday of oversized print magazines that had it right for awhile but today–not seeing it.

          1. William Mougayar

            david ogilvy said something about that 50 years ago, that good advertising is pleasant on the mind, makes you smile, empathetic. you can’t win anything by being annoying.maybe tumblr is a great medium for that type of advertising where it melds with the stream, and hits you gently.

          2. awaldstein

            Maybe–and I hope so. Monetization through media models are almost always a disappointment.Facebook and all socially targetted solutions seem horrid at best. Ignoring them is accepting them is the best behavior they can expect.

          3. Anne Libby

            And for this reason I’d vote a big thumbs down on ads with gifs. Ouch.

          4. Donna Brewington White

            There was some magazine advertising — perhaps there still is (I no longer read the type of magazine I am thinking of, e.g., Vogue, etc.) where there was an almost seamlessness between the content and the advertising. Come to think of it, perhaps Tumblr is the new magazine.

          5. William Mougayar

            Interesting. I’d like to see that. I don’t like being fooled without knowing about it somehow. I’m seeing ‘sponsored posts’ appear on some other sites, but their quality isn’t the same.At the end of the day, it’s “advertorials”, but with a new twist on formats, length and placement locations.

        2. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Advertising you actually want to encounter.

          1. William Mougayar

            Good way of putting it.

      2. Kirsten Lambertsen

        “Ads that can compete with the best material out there.” According to Jay Rosen.http://bit.ly/1gtL9ZL

        1. awaldstein

          Thanks. Saw this but it’s not resonating with me.

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I’m working on something that I think is the closest thing to ‘perfect’ advertising for all stakeholders. I call it curated native advertising. I think it’s possible. The trick is to prevent the race to the bottom that all advertising seems to suffer from.

          2. awaldstein

            Go make it so!

          3. John Fazzolari

            Interested in learning more about this. How does it work? What mediums is it for? Recently learned about a startup working on replacing ads with educational content. Think its highly relevant to certain people + demographics such as parents. Love the idea

          4. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Shall we take it to email? kirsten at kuratur dot com

          5. John Fazzolari

            Sure, will drop you a note!

    2. fredwilson

      I saw an ad for a couture fashion house in my dashboard last week. It was beautiful and i favorited it

      1. William Mougayar

        Maybe the point of not noticing it too much means that it’s well done and integrated.

      2. matthewmclean

        Fred, how much money did the couture fashion house receive because you “favorited” it?

  4. David Semeria

    Sorry to be OT, but I just finished reading “The Circle” by Eggers following your mention a while back.Thank you very much Fred. I found the book thoroughly disturbing and thought-provoking.I don’t know whether to give it a smile or a frown – but I think that’s the whole point…

    1. awaldstein

      Sounds like a recommendation to me David.Just downloaded it.

      1. David Semeria

        Definitely Arnold. It will change the way you think about how many likes a comment gets, or how many times a tweet is retweeted.

        1. awaldstein

          Something I think about a lot so on target.

        2. Anne Libby

          One of the closing chapters of A Visit from the Goon Squad also has that flavor…So much to read!

      2. Donna Brewington White

        I am looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time. Almost think I’m ready. Will be very (!) interested in your take.Thanks @hymanroth:disqus — even though Fred’s recommendation was enough, yours seals the deal.

    2. fredwilson

      That’s exactly how I felt

    3. Elia Freedman

      I had an odd reaction to the book. I didn’t like it but I think that’s because the lead character didn’t learn the lessons I would have, which makes me question my own dislike of the book. “Disturbing” is absolutely the right word for it.

      1. David Semeria

        Sure there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t make sense in the book.But for me Eggers really nailed the emptiness of many digital interactions. Encouraging people to “send frowns” to the Guatemalan government being a good example.

        1. Elia Freedman

          Absolutely agree.

    4. Aaron Radin

      This is one of the best books I have read recently. So much of what is portrayed is a lot closer to our reality than not. At best, you are supposed to feel uncomfortable at the end and question what you share and what you need/must know about others.

  5. JamesHRH

    Still struggle finding good follows. Likely says more about me than anything else.Noticed that I could post easily to FB now. I think that is waaaaay overdue and a terrific feature for growth.

  6. leigh

    And more importantly, the kids love tumblr. It’s where we get a great deal of consumer insight from a social sharing and data perspective.

    1. panterosa,

      my 12 yr old just started a tumblr at her friend’s house at a sleepover, and so did other girl. i have not been given deets yet – she wants to build it before I see it.

  7. John Revay

    I love it too…I find it as a cross b/t Twitter and Instagram,

  8. Humberto

    I think you’re right: its a great ASSET.I struggle to see the business perspective. That one day it may generate lots of revenue and profit is attractive, but only as speculation.Many companies today seem to be built as assets, not as business.I am very afraid where this will lead us. (Asset bubbles, anyone?)

    1. Richard

      Hold on there. You know what would suck more without its advertising ? The Super Bowl. You not wake else would suck more without ads? Facebook. There can be synergy in advertising.

      1. awaldstein

        Facebook advertising truly is horrid.Facebook as a platform for connecting with networks, truly a powerhouse for some niches.

        1. Richard

          Let’s be real, most of the content in FB is trivial and boring. Advertising can easily compete with trivial and boring.

          1. awaldstein

            Comment redacted.

      2. bsoist

        I disagree. Sure, the Super Bowl is often an average or worse game, but I’d much prefer they dispense with the ads – and the hype – and just let me watch the game at a reasonable hour in a reasonable amount of time.Facebook disappoints me. It has the potential to really do advertising right, but I am often really surprised at what shows up in my feed. Very jolting sometimes. Hate it.

        1. Andrew Kennedy

          The super bowl hype is annoying, but the ads? Some great ones. Below is still one of my favorites. This was a super bowl add and it just nailed it. Was in the midst of the Wassup mania. http://www.youtube.com/watc

          1. bsoist

            No doubt some great commercials some years. That was a good one.

          2. Andrew Kennedy

            I thought the John Stamos greek yogurt commercial last night was best of the evening. http://www.hollywoodreporte

          3. bsoist

            Very funny indeed. Which was the biggest flop?

          4. Andrew Kennedy

            Bob Dylan was in a Chrysler commercial that started out with the line, “Is there anything more American than America?”Was painful to see bobby d sell out to Chrysler.

          5. bsoist

            Agreed! I wasn’t a big fan of any of the GoDaddy spots either.

      3. Andrew Kennedy

        I was just talking about this exact thing at lunch yesterday. The Super Bowl would be worse without the ads (full stop). I don’t agree with you about Facebook, but I left Fbook over a year ago and so perhaps its gotten dramatically better. Yesterday I came to the conclusion that super bowl commercials don’t scale. Simple concept, but I hadn’t looked at them that way before.

        1. Richard

          I can’t say I use FB, but I do occasionally open the app. Im equally interested in the ads (mostly other apps) as I am the comments on my stream. I feel like the ads are getting better (not good but better).I guess my take is that the first platform on the mobile web to make ads entertaining (like the superbowl) could change the value proposition in advertising. i could even see future scenarios where ad rates are a function of the ads entertainment value.FB (and others) need to look at advertising as content and ask themselves does this ad entertain/enrich the experience.

          1. Andrew Kennedy

            Totally. To me it’s a question of can it be done at scale ie how will fbook or other know what I find entertaining / enriching, which comes down to is the data trail I leave sufficient to predict my interests at any given time. To this I always go straight to a netflix example in my mind: i don’t know what I am going to want to watch so how in the hell can netflix take a reasonable shot at suggesting a movie. I really don’t think any amount of data can rec a movie for me and even my close friends that know me well sometimes miss the mark. To go way out there —> I don’t think AI can replace human knowledge and the value we get from understanding others through shared experiences. I haven’t seen “Her” yet, but its def on my list as I fall squarely in the camp of humans want human relationships and always will.

      4. Salt Shaker

        I’ve managed ad budgets for many leading Fortune 500 brands and I’ve always believed that adv on the SB generally to be an inefficient use of funds. There’s far too much of a price premium baked into the game. Adv on the SB is all about feeding a marketer’s ego and creative indulgence than anything else. Unless a company has an earth shattering product intro–think Apple’s epic “1984” commercial for Mac–I believe that $4M investment could be deployed more effectively elsewhere. Most advertisers on the SB are leading brands w/ already high consumer awareness….they don’t need the lift. Nothing scientific here, just one man’s opinion.

        1. Richard

          You may be looking in the rear view mirror, SB ads today mean you get twitter virality free. SB rates will continue rise, not fall as some have predicted.

        2. pointsnfigures

          better to make a cool viral ad pre-super bowl and have social media pick it up.

          1. Salt Shaker

            Yes, in theory, but most ads frankly aren’t good enough to go viral.

          2. awaldstein

            I think advertising is honestly overrated for 99% of all the people that use it.Sure–sometimes we all do it. Never been the top driver for any business or brand I’ve built.

          3. Salt Shaker

            Arnold, I agree w/ you for certain categories but for many others adv is the cost of doing biz. For example, Hollywood studios need to drive weekend box, retailers need to drive sale traffic, etc. Sometimes adv is used solely for trade purposes (e.g., to drive distribution). Adv should be viewed as one component of integrated strat, w/ resources deployed by ROI, as quantifiable and appropriate. I’m a bigger advocate of strategic alliances these days. More cost effective and wiith right partner can be win-win.

          4. awaldstein

            Of course.Hollywood is the largest corner case on the planet. I worked in the biz for a bit so know it well.I think your generalities are not commonly correct in today’s market.Retail–there are more that don’t than do. It is not the tactic of choice.B2B distribution…outside of PPC very few.It has its place. Less than more in startups. And almost always at the bottom of the expense chart.Big brands–different story.

          5. ShanaC

            Yup

  9. jason wright

    magic vs money.this is the magic phase. when the money phase kicks in (and yahoo’s stock holders will begin to demand this starts in earnest at some point down the road) what might happen? Mass migration away to another platform is a fair bet based on the history of social.There’s also the demographic. Kids grow up and leave home.

    1. awaldstein

      monetization is the enemy of magic and value?in media driven models invariably you are correct. in every other model, monetization should augment value.

      1. jason wright

        “underappreciated asset”depends how the ad atom is deployed on the platform.stock holders get seriously pushy for their short term gain.

      2. MikeSchinkel

        Agreed. That’s because in media you are advancing the interests of one group of constituents (advertisers) over the interest of others (the “eyeballs.”) and yet the value offered is derived by appealing to the latter. A successful media property always starts off by focusing on the latter but over time focuses on the former because that’s where the money comes from.I know all too well; I started what was essentially a media company in 1994 and ran until 2006; we grew like a weed the first 5 years because we focused on the wants of the eyeballs and then as competition heated up we turned our focus to optimize for the advertisers and things went downhill from there.The sad part is I knew in 1994 that we always had to focus on the eyeballs but somehow I was powerless to stop the organization I had built from refocusing on the advertisers.

        1. awaldstein

          The world is watching this happen at scale on Facebook today.Everyone is there. It’s a mess. It has huge value to those smart enough to figure out how to channel it.The ads are basically road side interrupt advertising.

  10. JimHirshfield

    Great to hear they haven’t broken Tumblr. Soooo many acquisitions get smothered to death, deserted, or “improved upon” out of business.

    1. pointsnfigures

      My friend Prof Mike Gibbs (UChicago) did an exhaustive study on M+A and what happens to company culture. The results are data driven, and prove intuitive suppositions you might have on M+A as it relates to culture.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Gets worse?

        1. pointsnfigures

          The dominant company culture becomes the culture. In Tumblr’s case, Yahoo’s culture should overtake Tumblr’s culture in the long run.

          1. awaldstein

            yup and in almost every case the acquirer is the dominant culture of course.

          2. ShanaC

            How long

          3. pointsnfigures

            good question. usually it depends on when the employees of the smaller company leave-Cisco has made it a mission to integrate companies. Replace part numbers and integrate quickly. Core strategy of theirs. This is also why most mergers fail

          4. Donna Brewington White

            And, if so, I wonder what impact on the brand?

    2. Drew Meyers

      like mybloglog, which was one of my favorite startups ever. no longer exists ;(

  11. WA

    What was /is Tumblr’s biggest demographic?

    1. karen_e

      The urban myth is that Tumblr’s biggest demographic has always been “the creatives.” I’d be interested to hear that clarified and made more accurate!

  12. Bruce Warila

    It always seemed to me that Tumblr took the idea of RSS (or RSS), and made it simple and accessible to everyone. As for me, I have tried Tumblr several times, including last month. I just really dislike the UI.

  13. Richard

    Yahoos fall started in 2001. This mission statement was taken from their 2001 annual report (wow does it suck). Build a diversified global business by focusing our efforts and leveraging our core strengths to provide deeper more valuable solutions for our customers and business partners.

  14. Richard

    “The magic of Tumblr is that it sits between Twitter (short form) and WordPress (long form) and fills a gap in the world of blogging”Awesome.Compare this pitch with “we are the this for that” (as discussed earlier in the week).

  15. pointsnfigures

    Tumblr is much easier to use. However, because of it’s ease of use and flexibility, it’s much harder for businesses to figure out. They like to think linearly. Tumblr is different. I started a Tumblr blog awhile ago and it sat there. I merged it with Instagram, and it was a series of photos etc. Now I am taking a critical look at Tumblr and trying to maximize it a little more. Doing the Soundcloud group-doing some other things, and then following interesting people makes it a better go to site. Again, it’s all about what I want it to be. My Tumblr feed will be different than anyone else’s. But that’s cool.

    1. Anne Libby

      Better than Pinterest for sharing “interestingness,” better than Twitter for sharing more than text…better then Facebook, because, well, Facebook.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Pinterest is dominated by women. 89% of users are women. And we thought men were visual.

        1. Anne Libby

          I found Pinterest early on through a quilting teacher — the mostly female crafty world in the vowel states embraced it. Great for sharing photos, but photos plus story, not so much.

          1. pointsnfigures

            i got the WW2 museum on PInterest, and now they are on Tumblr through the blog, “greatest generation”.

          2. Anne Libby

            #followed

    2. Brandon Burns

      Businesses not being able to figure it out is one of the reasons why Tumblr is awesome.

  16. Brandon Burns

    My favorite thing about Tumblr is I don’t have to worry about what version of myself I’m projecting on it. Part of it is because its culture is so random; folks who have well defined online presences elsewhere kinda just let it all hang out on Tumblr (Fred on AVC and Twitter vs. Tumblr is a good example).But the other part is the foundational elements of the experience design, which intentionally lead to that culture. The fact that people can’t see who you follow allows you to be free with how you construct your feed, who you interact with and discover, which leads to more serendipity in the content of theirs you reblog and share with your own followers, and all the new random people you attract to your feed because of it.And considering that this behavior was the complete anthiesis of what was in vogue at the time — Facebook style “transparency” — it took real vision and conviction to make Tumblr not only happen, but stay pure and grow and actually get better over time. Certainly impressive.

    1. karen_e

      I liked your comment the other day about how you try to never leave Williamsburg. Your fixation on staying local makes your comments all the better!

    2. jason wright

      is this the avc version of yourself? how many versions are there? i need a therapist to survive the digital prism.

    3. ShanaC

      I know. It’s the only social medium where you don’t have to have to showcase. It is often a huge relief… It allows you to just be

      1. MikeSchinkel

        “where you don’t have to have to showcase”Elaborate?

      2. Donna Brewington White

        Well put, S.

  17. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Tumblr became my official family blog/album because of its dead-simple email option. I take a pic with my iPhone, email it to my Tumblr with the caption, and I’m done. I love that. I almost never interact with the web interface. If I’d had to download an app to do the same thing, I probably wouldn’t have.

  18. Semil Shah

    Would love your take on this – I use Twitter and WordPress a lot. Can I still use Tumblr? I’ve tried for tech/blogging but end up going shorter or longer.

  19. Salt Shaker

    Hard to discern whether the comment by the analyst is a complement to Tumblr or an insult to Yahoo’s “core.” The core frankly looks pretty rotten right now. Yahoo just can’t find the right strat to monetize its traffic, and their sports/finance numbers are still quite strong. I think it begins with not having a clear positioning. Ad buyers don’t know how to perceive it. Tumblr may be its salvation, but Alibaba is most def giving Marissa a short-term pass. But for how long? At it’s “core,” Yahoo is a media company and she doesn’t seem to have the skill set/experience to successfully manage a media brand.

  20. Drew Meyers

    I use tumblr to bookmark things I find interesting, and may want to read/find again later. But I virtually never look at my tumblr feed…I just have the browser bookmarklet installed in Chrome, and use it whenever I find something of interest (that I don’t want to write a whole blog post about)

  21. MikeSchinkel

    I still don’t get Tumblr, and I rarely say that about new tech or successful startups.I know it’s my lack of understanding but I’ve yet to figure out a reason (for me) to use it. I have only rarely found anything interesting there except the occasional list of funny pictures that are linked when I’m on other sites, but my life would have been just as full had I not ever seen those pics.Maybe it’s the fact my Google searches never land me on Tumblr, maybe it’s I never feel like searching serendipitously for new content (I always have something specific I want to do), or maybe I’m just not their demographic.I once didn’t get Twitter either, but a series of online local discussions I wanted to track gave me the “in” I needed for Twitter and have since been a huge proponent. But I’ve yet to find such an “in” for Tumblr.

    1. jason wright

      you’re not in the minority. they may be successful, but they are still marginal.i’d like to see an analysis of the psychological profiles of users of platforms like tumblr. i imagine that there’s not great diversity in the population. they express themselves in all manner of ways in their tumblogs, but their basic traits are common.

    1. MikeSchinkel

      Interesting….!

    2. Rhys

      The problem with Paper for me is that it relies on my Facebook friends to post interesting, well crafted content. Anecdotally, that’s not the case for most people.

  22. John Fazzolari

    I have been thinking a lot about Medium vs Tumblr lately from the perspective of a brand. Semil recently wrote about how Medium content is currently written by individuals but has the potential to expand to all kinds of brands. Why Tumblr or why Medium if you’re a brand? Which is better if you’re looking to control how content looks and is delivered to viewers? Also, will either Medium or Tumblr ever figure out mobile?

  23. ObjectMethodology.com

    I agree with you Gadgeteer! I found tumblr to have a difference that just made it better than the rest..Startup100M [at] ObjectMethodology [.] com

  24. hypermark

    What I find interesting about the success and durability of Tumblr is not so much Tumblr itself, but rather the fact that it’s a service that doesn’t fit into the Either/Or bucket.So much of the market is driven by avoiding getting caught in the middle of being an AND type of product (e.g., you have to be low end and free, OR high-end and expensive).I wonder how many other products or services fall into this AND bucket, and frankly hope that the trend accelerates (if it is a trend).Frankly, it’s what I like most about companies like Apple, Amazon and Google. They have built their success by disproving that you have to be one thing to one audience.

  25. Nick @ Piqora

    Tumblr is part of the “big 3” visual web networks (with Pinterest & Instagram) that, from our perspective here at Piqora, are eating the web. http://blog.piqora.com/imag

    1. ShanaC

      Pinterest is interesting. It provides really deep search and therefore discovery

  26. Donna Brewington White

    Still amazed at the seemingly unlikely yet brilliant marriage between Tumblr and Yahoo. Relieved that Tumblr is still Tumblr. Was hoping that Yahoo would become a little less Yahoo. David Karp on the Yahoo BoD perhaps? Now there’s an idea.

  27. Krista Bradford

    If Twitter is about wit, then Tumblr is about feelings, and Facebook is the place where one must never over-share. That’s the distinction one college junior made on her use of the different platforms (my daughter). For me, Tumblr is about curating inspiration. You don’t get to do that on any other platform.

    1. MikeSchinkel

      @kristabradford:disqus That is super helpful, thanks for posting! And “Out of the mouths of babes” as they say, relatively speaking at least. :)Interesting that she described Twitter and Tumblr in how to use them and Facebook in how not to use it. I wonder if there’s a deeper meaning there…?WRT Twitter and Tumblr, I wonder now if Myers-Briggs “Thinkers” are more likely to gravitate primarily to Twitter and “Feelers” are more likely to gravitate to Tumblr? Wonder if there’s any data on that anywhere?Again, thanks for that insight.

  28. Dawid Piaskowski

    Have you tried BookLikes? It’s like Tumblr for book lovers.