I think Matt is right to point out the real story here. Automattic is simply the right home for Tumblr. Perhaps similarly to how SmugMug is the right home for Flickr.
Automattic is a company with a commitment to the open web and to effortless digital publishing. That was Tumblr's original vision, too, before it got lost in in the Yahoo/Oath/Verizon behemoth.
Automattic is a company with a long-term vision for what the open web means and how to monetize it so that valuable services can simplify lives for site operators, at scale. Just think of how many blogs and sites (and businesses) Automattic has enabled via WordPress.com, WooCommerce, etc. They can apply that same know-how to Tumblr's community, no matter how neglected it might have been in the Verizon era.
Verizon probably had no clue what to do with Tumblr as an asset, and I am sure they considered doing an orderly wind-down to focus on their core. This was a much classier alternative.
As Matt mentioned, Verizon does $130B in annual revenue. Tumblr was probably a strange distraction for them and had no chance of moving their KPIs as a business.
Automattic's acquisition of it was probably the best possible outcome, for Tumblr's technical & management team, for Tumblr's community, and, most importantly, for its future potential impact on site operators and independent web publishers everywhere.
That said, and I know this is said a lot, but I really wish our industry would stop trying to label everything a "startup". Automattic was founded in 2005 and has 1000 employees. It's not a startup, it's a mature medium size tech company. Its problems are not startup problems, they're mature medium size tech company problems. Automattic isn't even a clear underdog considering the dominance of WordPress.
To be clear, that's not a pejorative: Automattic kicked ass, and Automattic deserves its current success. But the phrasing is a sticking point for me in how people talk about tech companies because it ends up feeding into how we perceive working at these companies. When I was job searching, I saw job postings regularly where "startup" or "like a startup" are used to invoke a cultural image for companies that are already post-growth-stage.
In my company managers think „startup” means to work a lot of overtime and weekends and changing project direction every month.
In a privately held company, the investors can manage it as they see fit. They can take profits if they like, or sell their stakes, just not on public markets.
This aspect of language is all signalling but very little actual signal. It's unfortunate.
Does anyone know if they did that?
They're smart enough to do know that they won't be able to develop it under their own management. But having some presumably better managers develop it and maintaining a stake is probably more profitable than simply selling it off to the highest bidder. And definitely more profitable than selling it "for parts", or closing it down.
As nice as it sounds, the realist in me finds a hard time to believe that this is exactly what has happened on Verizon's side.
I have never seen a publicly traded company do these things. Heck, you can be sued by shareholders if you actually do these things.
My interpretation (feel free to correct me, I am just a normal guy on the internet) is that Tumblr was difficult to value, hence PE firms didn't have a clear idea of how much to offer, and Automattic came in with a quick decent offer, and the final price (which I think was not disclosed) was so small for Verizon that they decided to go the easy route, perhaps leaving a few $$ on the table.
It might be silly, but that one interaction coupled with Matt's consistently well spoken/written/thought out public comments lead me to believe he & his company are pretty trustworthy. (The fun little smiley faces & haikus they hide all over the site don't hurt either.)
I hope they got a great deal on Tumblr. It's a really special site and I don't think there are many companies that would have the resources and the motivation to build it back up again. It seems Automattic has both.
Don't get me wrong. No one is perfect. I simply want to make sure people get to see more of the picture, because there is more to see.
So, Matt commented in the other thread that NSFW content is not coming back due to the difficulties around hosting and processing adult content (payment processing, advertising, everything).
Where does Tumblr fit in 2020 between Twitter, Medium, and Instagram? What's its medium?
Also, because tumblr makes it easy to create side-blogs, you can follow a favorite person for their specific stuff. For example, if my artist friend has an "inspiration" blog I can follow that blog instead of their "personal/vent" blog. Similarly if I'm looking for some kind of tea-specific blog I can follow a stranger's side blog without needing to also be exposed to the stranger ranting about a political opinion I am uncomfortable with.
Furthermore, it's one of the large social media sites for which there is a significant and semi-permanent resource and groupings for a variety of LGBTQ/diversity/political/fandom interests in a way that is more flexible than a subreddit or an interest forum. You can follow the individual blogs that you're interested in instead of needing to follow a whole community. So if you don't want to be exposed to some aspect of a community it's relatively trivial to just not follow the people involved.
Twitter has a lot of this, but the lack of easy threading posts and out-of-order feed really ruin it for me. Several of my favorite artists left tumblr for twitter and I've had very little success following them from there.
I always understood Twitter to be a personal text broadcasting service, i.e. single direction communication, not conversation.
For me it's just a nice/easy place to post stuff & get quick feedback/appreciation. It's also nice to scroll through nice/funny/cute things & sometimes get info on issues that the tumblr community cares about.
I feel like the same thing was said about Napster at some point as well. It's going to take __a lot__ of resources for Tumblr to overcome its status as yet another formerly-hot-but-now-a-has-been (e.g., Yahoo, AOL, MySpace, etc.)
Trumblr had its moment. It had its time. It had its audience. They are all in the past. The odds of it making any sort of comeback - in a Van's sneakers sorta way - are slim (read: close to zero). The cool kids of today just aren't as interested in a brand like Tumblr.
Tumblr will wallow around for bit and then Automattic will merge it into WP.com, or at least the WP platform with a (name) rebranding of some sort. I suppose that falls under MM's "redefine" but somehow I don't think so.
Nowhere on the internet had/has a community like Tumblr: aggressively queer, feminist, full of stupid memes, amazing independent art, obsessive nerdy fans, and this general mood of sillyness and innocence and joy and positivity.
And the porn really was weirdly a reflection of that and part of more people's Tumblr experiences than people are seemingly willing to admit: it catered to niche interests, slanted heavily to by-and-for women, super LGBT friendly, funny and over the top, generally tasteful and artsy, and respectful.
I imagine parts of tumble can be useful for micro-blogging onboarding - their signup process and get to posting process was always better than everyone else in my experience. This can be valuable to automattic / WP.
I could even imagine pushing little tumblr powered niche communities for places like Disney / that are walled from the rest of the networks..
However ejecting the adult content sharing was also a terrible thing not just for expression and sharing, but curating different flows of interests. Tumblr actually showed groups of posts that would curate individual's discovery of erotic and interesting portrayals of erotic imagery - to see these mini books curated by different people - for the people who saw them, it gave you a different perspective of things people might like - one that was not curated by the commercial porn industry, one that did not a/b test for most shocking to get attention / clicks.
Taking those options away is more than a loss of millions of posts per day - it's a loss for humanity in seeing and considering alternative views of beauty.
On top of the, conversations that could be had and knowledge shared around different sexual subjects that are impossible via fbk and the like.
Removing the adult access is almost like buying a couple chains of worldwide bookstores and removing access to all the romance and erotica stories - so it's easier to be a hosting company... however this is leaving a huge hole in global learning and sharing - and it's leaving those folks who may have benefited from different ways of learning and sharing - it's leaving them to the commercial wolves who are willing to fight the censors and other issues that add to the expense of hosting adult.
Which leaves us with commercial producers and the race to the bottom / make a buck any way with a/b filtered click bait stuff that is taking over. It's a loss for humanity truly.
I didn't see a single positive comment like this post yesterday. It's refreshing to read a different perspective.
It would be pretty amazing to have a streaming API of the wp.com universe.
Do you? I have to believe you don't.
The ad dollars generally just flow to whatever is the biggest, whatever is believed to deliver the highest ROI. It doesn't even have to be good, just large and slightly better than everything else.
Tumblr didn't become Facebook or Twitter. But it could have. If something ever manages to deliver ads that are slightly better than FB or Twitter than those disappear as well.
The bar is simultaneously really low and really high. Low because all you have to do is create a platform that delivers ads with an ROI that is slightly better than nothing, at scale. High because that's actually really hard to do. In some cases "better than nothing" is actually too high a bar. A lot of businesses—maybe even the majority—would be better off spending $0 on FB. Google is the only one who can consistently provide a positive ROI, reliably, for most of their customers.
For a while it looked like Tumblr could have done it. They had the users, the growth, the content and probably more data on what people ACTUALLY liked than anyone else has ever had.
I'll say that they clearly don't run many ads. They have a native ad offering that I've never been able to spot in the wild.