All Green Podcast Ep. 19- Tumblr Takes A Tumble: A 10 Year Review
Michael: All right, all right, all right. Thanks for listening to another episode of the All Green Podcast. I'm your host, Michael, with my co-host here Andrea. We're the co-owners of Eco Four Twenty, and we're really excited to do a very special episode of the All Green Podcast today. What are we doing here today, Andrea?
Andrea: So I thought it would be fun because we were talking a couple of weeks ago about things that happened in history, like ten years ago today in history. And we noticed that the anniversary, the ten year anniversary of Tumblr being sold to Yahoo was coming up. And so we thought it would be a really cool case study to talk about.
Andrea: Michael was a business entrepreneur Master's student, I'm currently doing my Master's in business. So we thought it could be interesting to kind of talk about the ins and outs of what happened and the downfall.
Michael: Just like in school, we learned dozens of these cases. And honestly, I feel like I learned the most from not the failures of other companies necessarily, but they've been there before. A lot of times these problems and situations have already happened in the past. So it's like, interesting to see how other entrepreneurs deal with it. And yeah, Tumblr is such a famous case because they had what, millions of little mini websites. Everybody had their own page. It was like Obama had his own page.
Michael: It was cool to see that to then be like the whole history and downfall. I don't want to ruin it because Andrea has an awesome presentation that we're excited to do it. I mean, I didn't even realize it, but she titled it Tumblr Takes a Tumble. So that in itself is like, already an exciting case study. So I'm excited to learn about it. I think anybody who loves business can learn from the situation that Tumblr put themselves in, right? And what can we learn from it? Andrea? Let's hear this presentation.
Andrea: I'll just preface it by saying I like this topic personally because I feel like I lived through this. I was a huge Tumblr user in the around maybe 2012, 2014, I think, at one point, one of my accounts had like 14,000, 15,000 followers. It was pretty crazy.
Michael: I didn't even know that. So you can follow not like a friend on Facebook, but you're following them and they keep track of the followers.
Andrea: Right. And it only shows the accounts that you follow on your dashboard. It's not going to show you like, random stuff you might like or anything like that.
Michael: But so even then, it's like the gamification of knowing how many people that's the addictive part of social media, I think. It's like, "Man, I have so many more followers. Look how it grows." Right? And that kind of like the new additions every day. So the Tumblr was like that?
Andrea: Yeah, I think it was kind of the equivalent of MySpace it just opened my eyes to the world of social media and consumed me for many years of my life.
So I'm excited to talk about it.
Andrea: I am a Tumblr girly through and through.
Michael: Can you admit one of your Tumblr? Like, what was the topic? I know it was a band, but if you don't want to admit it, I won't make fun.
Andrea: Okay, but this was years ago.
Michael: But I'm just curious.
Andrea: It was a Canadian band named Marianas Trench. I'm sure you've heard of them.
Michael: I have heard of them, yeah, absolutely.
Andrea: They were huge in Canada and for some reason not really that big in other places, like in America and stuff. So I just was obsessed with them. And it was like to the point where I went to their concerts and people recognized me.
Michael: What would you post? Like, you would take photos and be like, "Hey, I saw them at this location," but like, "Hey, here's them at this cafe." And then you upload it and comment on it, like, how cool they look.
Andrea: It's like I follow other accounts that post their photos. So then I have account that's exclusively curated for people who want to see photos of the band or if they want to talk about it, you can send asks.
Michael: Could they write comments on your comments?
Andrea: Yeah, like tags and stuff. Like, it was very interesting.
Michael: Imagine being like that band and then looking at these obsessed girls being like, "Look at him in this area, or here's him at a donut shop." That's the thing about celebrity myths. Would you be that celebrity too? Would you want to be the subject of one of these Tumblr fan sites and stuff?
Andrea: I don't think so. No, I don't think so. Especially in this time and age where it was very intense. I don't think I would have done very well.
Michael: But how many followers did that band have? Like Marianas Trench.
Andrea: I don't think they had a Tumblr, maybe Twitter and stuff.
Michael: Did companies use Tumblr for marketing in the way that people are doing it on Instagram now? People are doing it on their own websites.
Did Coca Cola have a tumblr?
Andrea: No, this is only like, indie band and indie companies. And then obviously the other - well, we'll go into it. There was a lot of big people on Tumblr, so I'm just going to go into it. All right, so Tumblr takes a tumble, this is a ten year reflection. So what is Tumblr? Tumblr was really popular for its unique blend of blogging and social networking.
And a lot of people liked it because it was very unique in being able to foster really creative expression. There was a lot of subcultures and fandoms with diverse content ranging from art, photography, memes, poetry, video edits, stories even.
Michael: A lot of people use Tumblr as like, that platform to post and share, but they post like, "Hey, here's my dog." And then the whole tumblr would just be about their pet Fido or something.
Andrea: Sure. Or here is a tumblr that's completely dedicated to an imaginary world where these two people in this show get together.
Michael: They're in love. That's even funny, right?
Andrea: That was kind of the idea. And there was, like Michael mentioned a lot of famous celebrities that did use Tumblr.
Michael: Yeah, I can only imagine. Okay wait, who's the most funniest?
Andrea: Okay, so Taylor Swift had one.
Andrea: Lorde, I don't know if you know her.
Michael: I bet you Taylor Swift also had hundreds of or thousands of other people making Tumblrs about her, in addition. They would post about every action.
Michael: Every fan follow.
Michael: Lorde. I know. The Lorde. Awesome.
Andrea: Aziz Ansari, Kylie Jenner and Beyonce. Hundreds of thousands. At that point, I think Tumblr celebrities were relatively lowkey from what I remember. Like, they didn't outwardly express that they were on there. They tried to enjoy the platform for what it was.
Andrea: So that's why people liked it. That's kind of what I took from it as well. But we will now go into the timeline of what happened to lead up to where we are today. So, from humble beginnings, in June 2006, the development of Tumblr began. Tumblr was founded by a young David Karp and became public less than a year later.
Michael: Wow. So one year later.
Michael: Jeez. And how old is our company right now? Like five years old. Imagine just being public immediately in that sense and the stress it would cause.
Andrea: But it's also this is tech, keep in mind. So I think things just go at a different pace.
Michael: We were talking about it earlier. This is way after the tech bubble, like, 15 years after. So it's like, did these tech companies not learn? It's interesting that they do it that way.
Andrea: Yeah. So, I mean, I guess it was just part of the environment. And then in February 2020, it was launched. And I think the owner, he actually created it in his mom's apartment in Manhattan. That's where he developed it.
And within two weeks of its startup, Tumblr had nearly 75,000 users, which is pretty crazy. Like you said, the tech just allows it. It's just about globalization. It's just so easy to access people around.
Andrea: And then two years later, in February 2009, tumblr released their first app, which was called "Tumblrette"
So with the app, users had the freedom to post to the blog whatever they wanted, wherever they wanted. And this was basically the start of Tumblr becoming very popular, because now people had access to it on their phone easily versus desktop.
Michael: It really just also goes to show the power of the iOS. Once you're like, I'm sure they were ranked in the chart of the App Store. So then that gets more downloads, more discovery, and it just snowballs.
Andrea: And I'm sure it was even like, a crude idea of what I know now to be the Tumblr app. It was probably just like very simple.
Michael: They launched Fast, quick, I mean, just this timeline. Already in three years to be able to do a successful launch, publicize a successful app.
Andrea: 75,000 people in two weeks.
Michael: Imagine the emails they get dozens of emails of questions and help that is needed to support that kind of infrastructure.Okay, so this is the humble beginnings, right?
Andrea: So now we're moving forward to Tumblr at its peak.
So in June of 2012, Tumblr released their new and improved iOS app. Now users could blog from anywhere and their mobile devices were faster and more efficient than having to use a desktop. And the new app improved the following of the platform hugely. So I think that was like a big point for it.
Michael: It is really important. People don't want to wait to load a web page. Sometimes if a page takes 5 seconds or an app is a second, they're doing it immediately. And everybody has it on their phone nowadays. It's crazy.
Andrea: And then you asked earlier how they did marketing and monetized.
So at the same time of this app, they actually had their first big ad deal with Adidas. And now big companies wanted to have their stuff featured on Tumblr and it was proven to be valuable. So it definitely brought in more money for them. And this kind of proved how viral and global Tumblr actually was and that they could make money through an advertising deal.
Michael: And I guess not to say when was the peak of advertising online, but I'm sure in 2012, a lot of these companies thought, "Oh wow, I could actually be at the forefront of the internet marketing space." And really you want to get ahead of it, work with big companies and tech companies like Tumblr.
Like, that could be a cool project for Coca Cola or who was it?
Michael: Adidas, yeah. That's amazing.
Andrea: So then I would say from what I saw online, April 2013 was the absolute peak of Tumblr. So at this point in time, the website received more than 13 billion global page views.
User activity was measured by the number of blog posts per quarter, which peaked at over 100 million in the early 2014.
Michael: Which probably leads into, like, man, how do you moderate that? How big it got and how quickly it grew.
Michael: This was like seven years. Do you think, I wonder this, did they have a hosting company that was like, "Whoa, what's this website doing? How did they do hosting?"
Andrea: I'm not sure.
Michael: You can't just go to GoDaddy or Shopify and be like, "Hey, we're just going to make a million pages, like mini pages."
Andrea: Right. I imagine at some point they had to make their own.
Michael: Make their own, yeah, and become sufficient.
Andrea: So this is a good idea of where Tumblr was when I was on it and people were posting and interacting and stuff. This was the golden era, in my opinion.
So I'm just going to stop here quickly and I wanted to share some of my favourite events and moments to come out of Tumblr.
Andrea: And I think they're moments that people still talk about to this day-
Michael: Moments in history.
Andrea: My top three.
Michael: All right, let's hear it.
Andrea: Okay, so we got number one. This is the Cole Sprouse Tumblr social experiment.
Michael: Okay. Never heard of it.
Andrea: So this happened in 2012. Cole Sprouse. You know him from shows like Suite Life of Zack and Cody. He's one of those two. He's one of the twins. I think he's that one.
Michael: So Zack and Cody is not their real name in the show. Really?
Andrea: No. It's like Cole and Dylan.
Andrea: But he was famous for being that.
Michael: He must have made a lot of money for that show.
Andrea: Yeah, I'm sure he did. And then eventually, I believe in this time, he started going to school in New York for Anthropology.
So this was him. In 2012, he decides to open a Tumblr account. And he called it "Coleture Concept."
Michael: Coleture Concept. Okay.
Andrea: So he became very famous very quickly, and he was flooded with asks, which are like, questions that people can send in that he was seemingly eager to respond to.
And so people were really excited by this. He seemed very authentic and he was funny and handsome.
Michael: So people can directly ask celebrities questions?
Andrea: If they have it open, yeah.
Michael: Wow. Okay. So that's why Twitter even became popularized. You know, that direct connection with someone that you would not order.
Andrea: Exactly. And it's like, you know, it's them. It's not like some PR.
So people really loved Cole and Tumblr was like, gawking over him.
Michael: Right. The first time a celebrity on Tumblr kind of made themselves accessible, I think Taylor Swift had a pretty hidden account and Kendall, it's not like they were interacting.
Andrea: But he was like, people loved him.
Michael: It was eleven years ago for that.
Michael: So it was a long time ago.
Andrea: Okay, so at the end of the year, he deleted his blog after he posted a very bizarre text post. So I'm just going to quote what it said.
Andrea: "So my goal for this website was accomplished. I got all the information that I needed, and now I'm deleting this account. Thanks to all who watched, read, and listened. I hope that in some small way, my words carried weight. The next time you see or hear from me, I will most definitely be a changed man."
Andrea: And then he posted it with this photo, like, very strange, cryptic.
Michael: Did he make it a book?
Andrea: So what happened was it was all a social experiment. And he basically trolled Tumblr. He said on Twitter that he pretended to be part of Tumblr and he made a Tumblr blog to "study humans" for his anthropology course.
And the silly, predictable, feeble beings that we are, acted excitedly, as he predicted. So Tumblr users were pretty upset.
Michael: And he was just studying what was his prediction? Like he predicted, they would ask weird questions or-?
Andrea: - that they would just be enamored by him, and they would take him very quickly and they would see him in a different light or something like that.
Michael: It's interesting.
Andrea: And people really hated him for that. He got a lot of backlash.
Michael: I could see the backlash.
Michael: Is that why he's not in a lot of famous shows?
Andrea: He's on Riverdale, but it's not a great show.
Michael: I don't know that one, but I did watch Suite Life of Zack and Cody growing up. It's interesting that even he had a Tumblr, so he grew up to fool an entire platform.
And just like even the weird ways that people use Tumblr, it's not just for showing off to celebrity musicians that's also interacting and funny interactions and stuff.
Michael: Okay, that was interesting.
Andrea: So that was one of my favorite moments. Cole, we will never forget. You were on my naughty list. All right, the next one, which I think is probably historically the most well known.
Okay, so this happened in 2014. It's called Dashcon.
Andrea: Are you familiar?
Michael: No, I've never heard of it. And I'm older than Andrea, for the record. So I would be 14 at this time?
Andrea: It's crazy that I remember people posting about this.
No, you would not be 14. This was in 2014.
Michael: I was born in 1990. I can't do math.
Andrea: You were 24.
Michael: I was 24. Okay.
Andrea: So Dashcon happened in July 2014. It was held in Chicago, and it was organized by a group of Tumblr users who wanted to create a space for users to get together and celebrate.
So this was by Tumblr users, for Tumblr users, it was great. There was so much hype around it. People were very excited to attend this event. Like this was happening.
Michael: Okay, why did they call it Dashcon?
Andrea: The feed that you see, it's called a dashboard. I think it was called Tumblrcon, and then they changed it for probably legal reasons, and you will understand why in a second. So now they're Dashcon. Okay, so a bunch of amateur Tumblr users, like amateur event organizers, Tumblr users tried putting this together.
Michael: Okay, so people were excited.
Andrea: They got their tickets, they booked their flights. There was events for everybody, all the niche communities and stuff. Soon to find out, Dashcon faced financial instability and unexpected financial burdens. As a result, organizers made a last minute announcement that an additional $17,000 was needed to cover costs.
From all the people, they are standing in a room with like 3000 people and they're like, "Hey, guys, we're out of money. The hotel is going to kick us out." And they calculated it. If everybody can just donate $22, then we will have enough to keep this event going.
Michael: And while they're at the event.
Michael: Oh, no
Andrea: It's like, "We cannot continue unless you send more money."
Michael: It's like Fyre Festival years before. When was the Fyre festival?
Andrea: Like, way later. 2018 or something like that.
Michael: So these guys don't learn from each other. This is a very bad.
Andrea: Okay, also, you can't quote me, but I think they did get the money.
Michael: So for the record, there's no Tumblr executives here, right? Like, they're not a part of this. "Guys, we didn't put on this event."
Andrea: "Don't use our name. Please don't use our name." "We don't condone this."
Michael: Andrea is showing a photo of just a crowded room of people.
Like, I guess these are the people who are putting their hands up to see who can donate. I don't know.
Andrea: So this is the best part. This is the most iconic part of it all.
Andrea: So a ball pit fundraising event was done to encourage donations in exchange for a few minutes inside the ball pit. Let me show you the ball pit in question.
Michael: I think I learned about this. Where someone got hurt.
Michael: Oh, then no. There was a girl who got hurt at a place where she jumped in the ball pit.
Andrea: That was like Twitchcon. This is the ball pit that they were getting donations through.
Michael: Even worse, this one, nobody could get hurt. It's like a child ball pit. We don't have video under it. Nobody can see this.
Andrea: No. I'll put a photo, but it's a very small ball pit in a very large warehouse. It's like a five x five foot ball pit.
Andrea: They didn't get enough money. They basically became a huge meme on the Internet and the controversies quickly spread across Tumblr and social media platforms, resulting in criticism.
Michael: Because whether Tumblr liked it or not, this is a representation of them. Like, that ball pit in an empty hangar is Tumblr, whether or not they wanted it, because the Dashcon company associated themselves with Tumblr.
Anyways, I know Tumblr didn't want it, and the executives were like, "We would have done a much organized event."
Andrea: This was an unofficial Tumblr event. But yeah, the ball pit became a huge meme.
Michael: But how can Tumblr control it? They can't.
Andrea:No, but that's the thing. It was just like a fan event that obviously retrospect, there was no way this could have and then I think they also put out really funny apology.
I don't know the end of it, but the Tumblr or the people that organized it, and they put out their financial statement, and it basically showed how they mismanaged the whole thing just from the beginning. So that was a big thing.
Michael: Do you know how much money they lost? Did it announce it? They probably wouldn't announce how much they lost.
Andrea: I know it was probably over $20,000.
Michael: Poorly if end of that. I don't know.
Andrea: But it went down in history.
Michael: And a good example of why you need to if you're doing events, people underestimate the time, the organization involved and, like, the necessary requirements to execute a thing like that.
And a lot of that is very time oriented. You need the catering to come at that specific time. It can't come a day later. Sometimes we receive shipments here at our office, and it's a day or two later, a week later. It doesn't affect us as much if we're not time sensitive, but imagine doing an event like this.
Andrea: Yeah. So Dashcon kind of went down in history as, like, one of the worst events online.
Michael: Poopcon. Yeah. Okay, so Tumblr is already now this is struggling.
Andrea: Yeah. Struggling.
Michael: PR nightmares.
Andrea: My last favorite event that came from Tumblr is my personal favorite.
Andrea: This one's called the Gay Babadook.
Andrea: This 2016 happened in December 2016. So if you don't know, the Babadook is a psychological horror film about a single mother and her son who are tormented by a malevolent creature. The Babadook, he's like this guy with a tall black hat, and he's very creepy from a disturbing storybook. Just like a horror horror or whatever.
Michael: Like the guy who stands in the corner of your bed, kind of like a shadow.
Michael: So spooky guy. That's who he is. Okay.
In December 2016, Tumblr user "Taco Bell Ray" uploaded a screenshot of the Babadook appearing in the LGBT section of Netflix. And the caption says, "So proud that Netflix recognizes The Babadook as a gay representation."
Andrea: Netflix accidentally put it as, like, an LGBT movie.
Michael: It's a horror film.
Andrea: Yeah, it's a horror movie. And so obviously, Tumblr ran with it, and it probably, people think launched the idea that The Babadook was a gay character and icon.
Michael: This guy looks by the way, he looks terrifying.
Andrea: But I've seen posters of him at Gay Pride. Like, people dress up as him as a character.
Michael: Yeah. Or like they have him on a poster all because of Netflix making a mistake.
Michael: Like one person being like, Netflix, this is so funny.
Andrea: Yeah. I guess because Netflix had to make the mistake, then someone has to recognize it and put it in the context.
Michael: Yeah, exactly.
Andrea: But I love this. That's so funny. I love this. I think about him so much. It was such a good time in society.
Michael: It is funny how it just shows, like, a moment in time could be generated from a 1 second joke. Do you think the guy who created that thought it would make a million memes later, or it would be on a million Tumblr pages going, "Ha, this guy's Babashook," that's really a cool story.
Andrea: Yeah. So those are kind of my favorite events.
Michael: How did the horror company. Any deal with that? Were they cool with that? Were they like, "Hey, this is affecting our brand image? He's not scary."
Andrea: I'm not 100% sure, but I think they probably rolled with it.
Michael: Probably roll with it to get more marketing to the show. If anything, more people are watching the movie as a result of it.
Andrea: So those were some of my favorite moments from Tumblr, I think it provides a pretty good rounded idea of what Tumblr was.
Michael:The weirdness, like, the intricacy, the events, the interactions, stuff like that. It's all obscure, if I'm being honest. It's so cool that you love this.
Andrea: I will remember this forever. This is a part of my adolescence, was growing up on this website. So I can probably jump back into the timeline now because it doesn't really get much better than this.
Michael: Oh, God. So the Babadook character was the peak, the pinnacle, the last good thing.
Andrea: Okay. The tumble of tumblr. Okay, so in May of 2013, Tumblr was purchased by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. At this time, Tumblr was receiving 100 million users a day with 90 million posts to follow. Mayor scored 90 million posts a day. Mayor scored Tumblr for $1.1 billion cash.
Her first words, Michael, "We promise not to screw it up."
Michael: That's what she said? Okay. How do you deliver 1.1 billion of cash? Is that like a truck? Who just had it? It's a transaction. Right?
Andrea: It's not physical cash. It just means they have that means they gave it to them as a deposit. They didn't have to take a loan or anything.
Michael: But that would be funny if it was like, the owners of Tumblr are receiving a billion of cash, and then they have to go to their bank, and they're like, we're not going to accept this shit.
Andrea: What is like, 40 Brinks trucks?
Michael: Yeah. I was going to say, do you think a billion of cash would fit in one Brink?
Andrea: No, I guess it depends on denomination of it. Maybe like two or three.
Michael: Yeah, I guess if it's all hundreds, $100, it'd be different, but still. I bet you even hundreds, even crisp bills flat squish as much as possible. You need multiple probably trucks.
Andrea: Yeah, you would.
Michael: They'd have to buy a truck just to escort the truck.
Andrea: Yeah. So this happened in May 2013, 1.1 billion. And then, in June 2017, Verizon Communications acquired Yahoo.
Michael: All of Yahoo.
Andrea: And this placed Yahoo and Tumblr under its Oath subsidiary. Also at this time, the original founder decided in 2017 that he would be leaving Tumblr by the end of the year.
Michael: So do you know, did he get a big payday? Like, did he get a bunch of money from that acquisition and the purchase. He also kept his job, right?
Andrea: Yeah/ They kept him on even after acquiring the company for that money.
Michael: I mean, CEOs also get paid. Stock get paid a lot of stuff over the years too. So he was doing that for four years under Verizon - Do you think Yahoo did good handling it then? Or was the Yahoo purchase a lot of money, too? Do you know how much rise Verizon purchased Yahoo?
Andrea: I'm not sure. You can probably look it up. I'm just curious.
Michael: It says 4.48 billion. And that's four years after.
Andrea: So assumably Tumblr was worth, like, a third of Yahoo valuation.
Michael: Yeah. That's crazy.
Michael: To put into perspective how big it was, even, like, mid to late 2010s. In 2017, they gave them 4.48 billion. And then the next year, what happened?
Andrea: In November 2018, Apple removed Tumblr from its App Store due to the presence of explicit material on the app. Tumblr said the content was immediately removed. The next month, however, Tumblr banned adult content entirely. So all not safe for work content, in December 2018.
This is what they said in their statement. They got clowned on for it. They said, "Don't upload images, videos, or gifs that show real life human parts, or female presenting nipples."
Michael: No, female presenting one's.
Andrea: Like, what does that mean?
Michael: Well, that sounds like nerds who've never seen a woman's body. That's how they describe a woman. He's like, "I've never seen a naked woman before."
Andrea: Mammary glands or whatever.
Michael: Oh, man. Apple just did it. Not without warning but they basically threatened cut off their main source of not income, but main source of viewers. And Apple kind of held them to their throat.
Andrea: Yes. So basically what ended up happening when they did this was Tumblr's traffic dropped 30% in the month after the ban, and then over the next three years, visits to the browser site and apps plummeted 40%.
Michael: Did they get back on the app after even after removing the content, or they got back on?
Michael: Even a couple of months of off is, like, a risk. It's an issue.
Michael: Just seeing the effects of what happens to them when you spend hundreds of thousands, millions on development, actually, when it's a social media platform, like, how else you know what I mean?
Andrea: Nobody's going to go on their computer to do that anymore.
Michael: Because I feel like a lot of times people are on social media Idly or something. You're waiting at the bus.
Michael: Did you look at Tumblr? While waiting for the bus to get to school, walking to the train.
Andrea: So that's kind of what started the downfall for Tumblr around this year after they just got bought for 4.5 billion. Technically it was five years, but yes, after Verizon, bought it.
Michael: And then they're like, "Oh God," do you think Verizon would have buy Yahoo if they knew that issue was coming?
Andrea: Probably not. I guess they just didn't picture it being an issue. I'm sure there's other probably had a million other things to worry about.
Michael: So all their other they had stuff like that. Tumblr was just one third of it or one quarter of it.
Andrea; But yeah, so this was 2018 when they had to remove the content. And now, unfortunately, the end is near.
In March 2019, similar web estimated Tumblr had lost 30% of its user traffic since December 2018, when the site had introduced a stricter content policy with heavier restrictions on adult content.
Michael: Even more. They were like, let's double down, let's double down on heavier well.
Andrea: I think this was just the long, more long term effect of it.
And then in 2019, Verizon Media announced that it would sell Tumblr to Automaticc, the operator of WordPress. So Verizon then sold it to WordPress.
Michael: WordPress, okay. They kept the other part of Yahoo and they just sold Tumblr assets too.
Andrea: If you want, maybe look up how much WordPress bought it for, I'd be curious.
Michael: I thought it was very littlel
Andrea: I'm sure it is, because it went from like close to probably 1.5 billion to I wouldn't be surprised if it's under.
Michael: Tumblr once sold for 1.1 billion. The owner of WordPress just bought the site for a fraction what is it?
Andrea: Can I guess?
Michael: Yeah, I guess. And then I'll tell you how off you are.
Andrea: So from 1.1 to this number, I would say 750,000.
Michael: 3 million. So over a million at least. But that's so low from 1.1 billion in 2013 to 2019, that's like a 97% decrease in valuation. That's insane.
And it just goes to show like the decline of six years user base too, I guess. So they sold to WordPress and this was like the most recent acquisition. But I also think it could be an interesting purchase for WordPress because their blog, that is a blog based site, it is a good collaborative, like if anyone's going to rescue them, that's a great company to do. So I think they're competition at one point, so I get that.
Andrea: So now we ask, where is Tumblr today?
Michael: They probably bought them just so that nobody else would have them to then grow. Like, imagine if A, Microsoft merged with them and then now they're competing against the bigger player.
Michael: It was a good purchase for only 3 million based on what it used to be.
Andrea: If I knew, I would have bought it for 3 million.
Michael: I do get it. Keeping in mind, houses in Toronto are like 2 million. So that's basically like, you can buy two houses on a block, or you can buy all of Tumblr. Imagine if you could invest as a kid or like, as a teenager were using Tumblr, and then in your 20s or 30s, you actually bought it.
Andrea: That would be a dream come true.
Michael: That would be a dream come true or a nightmare.
Andrea: It depends on how it works.
Michael: That's true. I'm sure they didn't buy it. It was like a work in progress when they bought it. They had to buy stuff and paint all the walls and fix stuff up.
Like, I'm sure WordPress well, what is WordPress doing through it now? Where is Tumblr?
Andrea: Okay, well, as of October 2021, Tumblr still had an estimated over 540,000,000 monthly users, 44.6 billion blog posts uploaded, and 178,000,000 blogs created, and 728 employees.
Michael: That's still not bad. And that's like during COVID too.
Andrea: And then, I knew you'd get a kick out of this, in November 2022, they unbanned nudity, but still had explicit content banned.
Michael: Okay. So that was their way to try and reattract content. Creators can't just put their own content.
Andrea: Yeah, it was more like artistic expression, I guess, is the best way to people describe it.
Michael: But they're five years too late on that, so that unbanning this kind of content is just a last ditch effort, I think. Did Apple allow that kind of thing? Is Apple's Policies more lax now on their app store?
Andrea: I don't think it was ever. It's just like the loopholes of what you can and cannot explicitly show. Okay, so I think that was their way of being like, there's these random little things that are allowed, but most of it's not. So this was in 2022, November.
So now I just look back on it. Why was Tumblr loved? In my opinion, and from the opinion of people online, I think one of the big reasons was it was customizable. You could build your own Tumblr page, use HTML, or you could use somebody else's templates. I said it's kind of like if MySpace and Facebook had a baby, where you can do like, your dashboard, your main page, but also interact with other people's stuff, share stuff.
Michael: It would be your own URL.
Michael: Whereas Facebook, it's always on Facebook, your custom Tumblr blog domain blog. So it kind of felt more like yours.
Andrea: Yes. So it was customizable. I think it was very easy use. If you wanted to post a video, you could just drop the embedded URL. Into the added video area. You can hit post. You want to post a picture. It's the same thing. You could also post media from a variety of other means, like email. Like, Tumblr would give you a unique email address where you can send any post and it would publish it.
Michael: Oh, interesting.
Andrea: It was very intuitive. Easy to like- dude, I was like a 13 year old girl. Like HTML coding, figuring it out. It was very simple and straightforward. And then I think another reason was the connectivity of it, like the globalization and the community that came from it. It was a very community driven platform. You had a lot of subgenres and groups of people that were very into one particular thing.
Michael: I feel like, in person, where would you it's hard to find, like, a club or group in person that you could talk about stuff and discuss certain things they did that month, or, "Oh, there's a new concert coming. What do you guys all think of that?"
Michael: Or, like, meeting up in person, doing that all the time with 100 of friends your same age.
Michael: So it is a cool place that you can literally do it and maybe because that person responds a day later, but you're still connected in that way. That's a great example of why people love Tumblr.
Andrea: So I think yeah, that and I think that maybe just developed this idea of a safe space for people where you're free to express yourself.
Michael: Even if it was like a weird, unique Babadook character, you could find 400 other people who loved it just as much as you did.
Andrea: Yeah. It was also very much a reblogging and sharing culture where people would repost each other's content and it would end up halfway across the globe on someone else's computer. And it's a way to get your voice and message out there. And then there was also a lot of niche communities and subcultures that I feel like accumulated there. And yeah, the last thing I wrote was that it was a safe space. I think it was very free of judgment.
You could have pseudonyms, you could post anonymously, you could ask things anonymously. You never really felt ashamed to express yourself. And I think that's why it was so great for young kids to have access to use more of that in our world. Where it's like, you put yourself out there and little to no judgment. You don't get that on the Internet anymore. It's just like there's a lot of judgment on Twitter
Andrea: And LinkedIn.So I think that's why people really like Tumblr and why it was so great for people.
Michael: Kids these days will grow up not knowing what Tumblr was.
Michael: Some people listening to this podcast might not have actually experienced it.
Andrea: It's so weird because the way they talk about it is like MySpace, where it's like they know briefly like this is the style and this is the energy.
Michael: It's more making fun of the nostalgia but not the actual experience.
Andrea: So let's get into the business part because that's the fun part. So what happened? So the first thing was the policy and ownership changes. I think that these transitions introduced a lot of uncertainty and changes in management which could have influenced the platform's direction and affected user confidence.
People liked Tumblr because it was made in a basement, it was homey, it was intimate. Now big corporate, Yahoo and Verizon and WordPress owning it. There's already policies I don't trust that they won't use my data against me to try and sell me stuff or whatever.
Michael: And you know, they did just like how Google did very specific retargeting ads. I'm sure Yahoo did specific targeting ads from Tumblr. If they're following this Tumblr, they can get these kind of ads they did whether or not you knowing you sign up by signing up for Tumblr.
Andrea: Yes. They had retargeting. They had also company sponsored events on Tumblr where like Nike day and then interesting, Nike starts interacting, maybe giving away stuff you post hashtags.
Michael: I remember there used to be sounds you could have that would be specific to people who would promote that music that was coming out too. So it'd be like they're paying for that promotion that happens on TikTok now, right?
Like that Makoba song apparently is getting paid to be promoted. It's one of the reasons it's going well versus it's not organic. It's not organic from Tumblr. It's being pushed by corporations.
Andrea: And I think because it was a sharing and reblogging platform, that's a great opportunity to spread your brand amongst thousands of users that are just like sharing, quick sharing and reposting.
So the next thing I would say was the competition from other platforms. Tumblr faced intense competition from other social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. These platforms offered similar features and attracted users with different content and community dynamics. As a result, some users migrated to these platforms leading to a decline in Tumblr's user base.
Michael: What did you switch to?
Andrea: I think a lot of people that I followed on Tumblr, I found them on Twitter, they went through Twitter. So I just kind of like did that kind of followed the wave of people.
Michael: That's the thing. If all the popular creators are now getting paid or promoting a new platform but you want to follow, you want to follow them. That's just like the I went on Instagram because people are doing that. Like people I follow, sports stars I follow are on Instagram. So it's cool to see their post there.
And sometimes it makes you log in and you can't even see the Instagram anymore unless you're logged in. That's even annoying in and itself. So they're forcing you to interact.
Andrea: The next one I put is moderation/trust issues. Tumblr faced challenges with content moderation, including issues with hate speech, harassment and the presence of inappropriate or illegal content. These issues erode a trust among users and affected the platform's reputation as a safe and inclusive space.
Michael: And that went against their values of what they wanted it to become.
Andrea: Yes. It just almost became, like, a dump for all types of content. People liked Tumblr because you only saw the people you follow, but now you were getting exposed to all these extra things and stuff, and it's not what you want.
Michael: Not what you imagined when you started it. Yeah, but they had 90 million posts a day at its peak. So how do you moderate that?
Andrea: It's so hard to do.
Michael: You have 20 teams. Like AI, I guess, didn't even exist at this point. It's still not where it needs to be to actually moderate properly.
Michael: I mean, even on Amazon, they're flagging things randomly, and then a human needs to view it. So how do you moderate when you're doing 90 million posts a day? Or do you just restrict posts because then you say, oh, everybody can only post five times a day, but then that's limiting another factor.
Andrea: But that's what they did with NSFW, right? They just said, no NSFW. Even if it's not explicit, nothing, right? Like, make it easier for us. And then the last thing I think is probably the pinnacle of every digital social media platform was the lack of innovation and updates. Over time, Tumblr struggled to keep up with evolving trends and advancements in social media. It faced a lot of criticism for its outdated user interface, limited features, and a lack of significant updates or improvements.
This stagnation made it harder for Tumblr to retain existing users and attract new ones. And on that note, I will say that is the reason I stopped using Tumblr, because their interface was so hard to navigate. I wanted to delete one of my side accounts. I deleted my main account, and there was no way to get it back at all.
Michael: So just, like, the things that aren't intuitive, if you accidentally press a button or something, if you have issues with that and the stress that that cause, I can definitely see the problem. Even on Facebook, you can delete your account and it's like, we'll save it for you even if you don't want it.
Andrea: Or there's, like, a multifactor where you have to email. "Are you sure you want to do this?" I didn't realize. And then I was like, that's like 16,000 people gone.
Michael: Oh, wow.
Andrea: Yeah, I got so sad.
Michael: If Marianas Trench hears this. Maybe they can come send an apology gift to Andrea.
Andrea: Marinara meatball.
Michael: Send some meatballs again. I'm probably saying their band name wrong.
Andrea: Marianas Trench. Like the thing in the ocean.
Andrea: So that was my presentation on the timeline of Tumblr. I have some questions.
Michael: Sure. Let's hear them? It's an exciting case. I think I definitely agree with everything you wrote here about what happened in the issues, too, that they faced.
Andrea: So I'll ask, what do you think were some of the missed opportunities or strategic mistakes made by Tumblr's Management that could have prevented its decline?
Michael: I think it's crazy that they went public and then sold a year later, or like, I just think the speed at that kind of early investment so unstable, right? A lot of companies don't build this good base before they grow. They just, like, accelerate and they kind of make it an upside down pyramid.But then it'll just keep teetering.
Andrea: I think it's clear why people lost faith at that point because it's like, once you sold it that quickly, it's almost like, is that a desperation? Like, something clearly had to happen quickly.
Michael: Whether you're saving yourself in terms of finances or banking, maybe you have the executives time to be like, "Oh, we know our runway short and we don't know if we're able to do it." And sometimes we don't know that it's going to take. "Oh, they only have six months of runway. Their cash is probably already strapped.: That guy probably had dozens of employees or hundreds, I don't know at the time. Imagine the salary of all those employees. So maybe that purchase from Yahoo was the only thing they could have done in the moment.
But I mean, it's hard if anybody offers us a 1.1 billion or it doesn't have to be - guys, if it's 800 million, I will accept tomorrow for Eco Four Twenty. So, just so you know, it's like it's hard to turn down that money, especially in that kind of situation, but I still would have made the money based on contingencies. Like, let's grow properly. Don't just buy my company and then turn around and sell it to Verizon. Buy the company and let's grow it together. Make me still be the CEO and let's build a team with it and use your expertise and your distribution. There's a lot of ways to have a better owner join you.
Andrea: But I mean, maybe they didn't know that Yahoo wasn't a good partner at the time. Do you think maybe it's like the lack of long term planning after the acquisition that kind of ruined them, where their goal is? Probably like, "Guys, we got to make sure our stuff is tight to get this deal." They get the deal and then probably accepting the fact that Yahoo is going to make them restructure or change policies and stuff, they're just like, "Yeah, man, it's worth it for the money, or we need the money to grow." Our hands are tied. But yeah, I do agree with that.
It was probably a hard place to be in to jeopardize your baby like that. He made this from nothing to this. I do get that.
Michael: Yeah. And it must be hard to have left at that time, too, when it's like he saw the downfall happening. But I think he said it left in 2017. Before all of the Apple stuff happened. It even just goes to show the chokehold that Apple can have on companies.
Michael: Yes, absolutely. So, considering the decline of Tumblr, what lessons can we learn about the importance of effective moderation, content, curation and maintaining a healthy online community? Also, do you think this decline was inevitable?
Michael: That's a great question, honestly, because I was just thinking about it in terms of. Reddit too. We're in 2023 now and learning about Reddit having moderation issues and investment issues. And they're trying to go public. Are they literally going to go public and then sell, like, just how Yahoo bought these guys?
And how do they deal with it? Well, what Reddit does is they have moderators for individual groups, right? So in that category of music, there's moderators. But those music moderators only rate -
Andrea: - Or like discord, right? It's the same idea.
Michael: I don't know much about discord.
Andrea: I think they have moderators for each community.
Michael: But those people are volunteers. That's the crazy thing is they're not getting paid, right? So it's like maybe just making it off of the backs of somebody. But it's crazy that, I mean, they've done it, but now these moderators have a lot of power and are upset when rules are changing, right?
But the CEO is like, "Hey, guys, we're not even making money." But they're all arguing about something way over our heads. I just think it's funny that it's pretty similar to Tumblr. And it just seems like now everyone's talking about TikTok and there's soon going to be a TikTok 2.0 that will knock out even Facebook and Instagram maybe. And unless they adapt, they will die. Like, a lot of these companies really need to innovate. And like you said, the last thing here, it says lack of innovation. If Twitter stops innovating, if we stop innovating, if we stop making new products, we did our black filter, then the rainbow, now the hemp based filter.
If we stop doing these things, we will die eventually. So I think you need to keep innovating.
Andrea: Do you think there's ever going to be a social media platform that can carefully walk that line of moderation and also facilitating and supporting user created content?
I feel like that's without restricting them, but still encouraging the freedom of expression.
Michael: I bet you'd be able to, but it has to be like a paid, like not a freemium everybody has a free Twitter account. It has to be like, you pay to get into this platform, and then you use all the proceeds like that to hire a lot of employees.
But I'm talking about you need one employee for 100 users or some kind of good base instead. I bet you if we look at Facebook, it's like one employee, 50,000 users. It's a lot less comparatively. So I bet you you need such tight controls. But even in that case, I don't think it's possible because they're going to moderate and people have so many different viewpoints.
It's just hard to get everybody agreeing. We can't even agree on climate change. It's hard to get people to agree on things. So say you start having talks about environmental issues. There's always going to be some people who think one way, some people who always think the other way.
And it's hard to meet in the middle, I find.
Andrea: So do you think the decline was inevitable.
Michael: I do. Yeah. I think it was inevitable. Whether it was Reddit knocking them out, whether it was someone buying them. Companies don't last forever. I'm amazed that Coca Cola survived like it's one of the longer ones.
Andrea: I'm sure it's because they're consumable.
Michael: I'm thinking about consumable. Maybe. I don't think tech lives forever. I think, what's the longest other technology company on Facebook? Right. Facebook and even then, Facebook made an amazing acquisition of Instagram, right? And I really think that if Facebook kept letting Instagram grow on its own, I truly believe Facebook would have been in a lot worse place.
Right? Like, Mark Zuckerberg is a great businessman for that purchase alone. Realizing like, shit, this is real big competition, and doing it, even then copying them a lot, like WordPress made a great position to be like, we need to acquire these guys or they're going to grow through us.
We are becoming a big pain in the butt to our competitors. Just in general, being that thorn on the back, sometimes it's better to just work with the companies instead of continuing to let that thorn grow. And instead of a thorn, it becomes a huge giant rose and stabs you a lot more times.
So I feel like, yeah, it is inevitable because social media and technology just keeps changing. I mean, maybe one day we'll be in our VR headset sitting back on reality in the Metaverse. You can make things all happen. We've already seen it with these Oculus Rifts that Facebook bought that company too.
So just like that alone is the technology is going to keep growing. You need to innovate or die. What do you think? Do you think it was inevitable
Andrea: Just based off of the pattern, the cycle that every social media goes through? Yes.
I guess what I would ask, because that leads into my question, do you think Tumblr still has a chance to regain its popularity and relevance in the future? What steps do you think can be taken to revitalize the platform and reengage users?
Michael: Oh, that's a great question. What would I do if I can they make a comeback? That's a great case study question. I guess they did allow the NSFW, like allowing it back to an extent, but they're still giving up their values of what they were. So I wouldn't go that route. You have to kind of find a niche that you can become. Is it the art world? Etsy is doing really well against Amazon.
Not because it's a good ecommerce, but because it's good handmade stuff and ecommerce also. But it's like, that's their niche. Small scale. They can find the small scale small sellers who are working and making more unique items for people. Whereas Amazon, it might be more mass produced, manufactured stuff.
So that niche helped Etsy grow. I think Tumblr has to find a niche. It might not be that explicit content niche, but it might be the NFT space. It might be the future of AI space. Like, it might be a space that doesn't even exist yet. I don't know what it would be, but they need to find that kind of niche and then become the best in that niche.
But then again, it's like, are they buying it just to make it grow and then sell it off to another tech company and then is that that the case of all these small companies. And tech companies, they just get bought and traded like trading cards amongst all these big tech companies.
Andrea: Because I think about Pinterest and I feel like that's what Tumblr kind of was.bAnd it's like, would Tumblr just turn into a platform where people post content from other platforms, like Repost Pinterest, repost Tweets, repost TikToks.
Michael: True, kind of like Reddit.
Andrea: But there's also discussion on Reddit. I don't know that Tumblr will ever reacquire the people that they lost, like me as a user. I don't know that I could ever get back.
Michael: Andrea is not going back.
Andrea: Sorry, Tumblr. I mean, maybe for the right price, 1.1, maybe 900 million. Or a big Adidas deal or sponsorship.
Michael: She will do it. Her and Kanye West will have a sneaker together with Adidas.
Andrea: Yeah, I think. Well, maybe not. Kanye. I don't know about that.
Michael: But he had the Adidas deal. That's why I was saying him.
Andrea: Well, I hope he doesn't have a Tumblr. Kanye is crazy for that one. So, I don't know, I guess it's possible. WordPress obviously sees something in the platform, and I'm sure people still have some sentiment towards it and are willing to try it again. But I feel like technology changes so fast. Like you said, if Tumblr sucks for me for two days, I will find a new place to do what I need to do so fast, and I won't even look back.
Michael: So they need to innovate?
Andrea: Yes, I think they need to get ahead of it, if that's the thing. Innovate in advance.
Michael: I definitely agree with that model of innovate or die, but plan ahead for knowing. I'll be honest, on our website, I didn't want to accept payments of Bitcoin and stuff, but I thought it'd be interesting.
And through that Coinbase app, we were able to accept Bitcoin on our website and do that kind of stuff. And I feel like it's interesting because if we don't innovate, if we don't accept new payments, but other companies start doing it, maybe we'll die in the same way. And I think there's a lot of good learning lessons from the rise and fall of Tumblr, if I could say so.
Andrea: Yes. That concludes my presentation.
Michael: Andrea gets an A plus. She didn't ask for grading. She didn't know she was being graded secretly. But thank you. A plus. I think it was very funny and informative.
Andrea: It was an honour to do. I actually really enjoyed reading about it in retrospect, reflecting on, like, okay, that makes sense when I look back on it and read about it. But again, I will always hold it near and dear to my heart. I think it was great for its time. It was like the zeitgeist, perfect environment and factors and everything. Like the stars aligned and it just took off. I would love to see a Tumblr come back one day.
Michael: It'll always remain in your heart.
Michael: Yeah. But hopefully if we can find screenshots of your old Tumblr, we will also put it in the blog if we can. We'll like go way back.
Andrea: Don't look into it.
Michael: I am looking into it. That is specifically what I'm going to do after this.
Andrea: I'll never tell you what it is.
Michael: You and the Marianas Trench hanging out.
Andrea: That would have been be a dream. But yeah, ten years in reflection, because as the day of the filming, recording this. It was the ten years since Yahoo acquired them. And all of this started.
Michael: Tragedy plus time equals comedy. Tumblr takes a tumble. Is it funny yet? Are we allowed to laugh at it? It still stings a little. Stings?
Andrea: Yeah, it stings.
Michael: But I'm informed, honestly, and from their failure, I learned business lessons. And I think other small businesses really can learn from the issues that Tumblr face, right?
Andrea: Yeah. So thank you, everyone, for listening. I hope you all learned something too. I had a lot of fun putting it together. I hope Michael learned something. It was really cool to hear what you thought about it. If you guys have any ideas or anything you want us to talk about, feel free to shoot us a message.
We are on Instagram, TikTok and Twitter @EcoFour Twenty, or you can email us. "firstname.lastname@example.org", but it's been a pleasure once again. Thank you for listening and thank you for helping us make the world a greener place, one podcast episode at a time.