It used to be the shy loner in the back of the social media cafeteria, but Tumblr is now one of many recent rising stars in the social media world. This is mostly due to its $1.1 billion acquisition by Yahoo! last year as well as reports saying that 46% of Tumblr’s user base is between the ages of 16 and 24. Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer seems to have realized that an email service and search engine that caters to primarily Gen Xers and Boomers is not sustainable, and that the only way she’s ever going to get advertising revenue from younger folks is by buying them off.
Yahoo! still hasn’t figured out how to make money off the micro-blogging site, however. Marketers are not exactly impressed with Tumblr’s ad potential as they’ve adopted the native-ads route – a method not known for driving sales – and the anonymity of Tumblr users limits the opportunities for marketers to deliver targeted ads to the people most likely to be interested in them.
Their current weakness is a small user base of only 8% of US internet users with incomes above $75,000, but a larger network doesn’t necessarily translate to high time-spend per user. Even though the population on Tumblr is relatively small, they are extremely active, with over 60% of its 13-18 users reporting spending “several hours a week or more” on the site, compared to merely 55% of the same age bracket on Facebook. Runners-up Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat have only 22%, 21% and 13%, respectively.
The main reason Tumblr piqued Mayer’s interest was when its number of unique visitors on desktop and mobile skyrocketed from 30 million in January 2013 to over 45 million in April according to comScore, but after Yahoo’s acquisition, the site’s growth has stagnated. Quantcast data from last year suggested that Tumblr wasn’t performing up to scratch, causing Tumblr to hide their traffic data. A Tumblr spokesperson tried to defend the disappointing Quantcast numbers by saying that the Quantcast data didn’t account for mobile app traffic, but when asked if including that data would indicate growth, they failed to respond.
All we have now is speculation over whether Tumblr is indeed in decline, or whether Tumblr is merely the victim of a broader trend in declining traffic for content-sharing websites such as Upworthy, ViralNova and Distractify. This has been linked to Facebook’s attempt to streamline the newsfeed by altering its ranking algorithm to prioritize “high-quality content,” though it doesn’t seem like Tumblr relied as much as many of these viral content mills did on Facebook traffic. More likely is that Tumblr effectively cast off its indie identity when it sold out to the notoriously-stale, uptight Yahoo!, and now its users are migrating to greener pastures.
Justin Belmont is the founder of Prose Media (prosemedia.com), a custom content writing service for brands, from startups to Fortune 500 companies. Offering solutions ranging from blog posts and social media to web copy and white papers, Prose employs top professional journalists and copywriters with expertise in a variety of industries.