Philip Ellis
News & Views
Tumblr wants marketers to get creative

Popular blogging platform Tumblr has been tumbling along happily for six years now, but in recent months it has been turning its attention to monetisation. Possibly taking a cue from Mark Zuckerberg’s post-IPO focus on advertising, Tumblr CEO David Karp has made it possible for users to ensure their posts reach as wide an audience as possible on the mobile app – for a fee, of course.

While Karp has previously described himself and the Tumblr team as “pretty opposed to advertising”, he believes that the mobile app (whose user base is growing rapidly enough to soon rival the web version) will be able to turn a profit simply by allowing users to pay to promote their posts. Says Head of Sales Lee Brown: “We expect that the monetisation will lead us to profitability this year.”

However, the secret to promoting your business on Tumblr will go beyond simply designing a traditional ad. Companies keen to advertise on mobile have been advised to come up with campaigns that will become widely shared, or reblogged, as is the Tumblr way. A prime example of a big brand making the most of Tumblr is Coca-Cola, which posted a series of highly appealing, sharable photos on the theme of “open happiness”.

By giving marketers a less restrictive medium in which to advertise (compared to, say, Facebook), the Tumblr team believe they can help brands foster a greater degree of creativity in advertising, which in turn will make consumers more open to sharing their message. “We’re not bringing them a template or a format to complete,” says Brown. “We’re giving them a canvas. That takes a lot of time and a lot of thought.”

Karp is so confident in the merit of this approach that Tumblr’s earlier outward-facing project Storyboard, an experimental business unit dedicated to highlighting organisations and individuals on Tumblr, is starting to suffer as a result. Catherine Shu at TechCrunch reported that all of the editorial staff behind Storyboard have been let go less than a year into the project.

Speaking to Fast Company last year, Storyboard editor-in-chief Chris Mohney stated: “Tumblr’s revenue plan is to find partners who are interested in doing creative stuff on Tumblr as opposed to just bringing in banner ads.” While that aim appears to remain largely intact, Tumblr’s recent move into monetisation does imply that the platform has found more of a middle ground between creativity and profitability.

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