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Tumblr Sold to Automattic

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Verizon Media the former owner of the microblogging and social networking site Tumblr announced yesterday that they will sell Tumblr to Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com. The terms of the deal were not disclosed but there are rumours around that the sell price might have been well below $20 million, maybe even around $10 million. Automattic will also take over 200 Tumblr employees.

Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg said “Tumblr is one of the Web’s most iconic brands. It is an essential venue to share new ideas, cultures and experiences, helping millions create and build communities around their shared interests. We are excited to add it to our lineup, which already includes WordPress.com, WooCommerce, Jetpack, Simplenote, Longreads, and more.” and Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan stated “Tumblr is a marquee brand that has started movements, allowed for true identities to blossom and become home to many creative communities and fandoms. We are proud of what the team has accomplished and are happy to have found the perfect partner in Automattic, whose expertise and track record will unlock new and exciting possibilities for Tumblr and its users”.

In 2013, Tumblr was sold to Yahoo for $1.1 billion, but in 2017 Yahoo’s operating business was acquired by Verizon for $4.48 billion. Tumblr with over 450 million blogs is a major player in the blogging and social media niche, but the service was also known to be unprofitable.

Verizon banned porn content on Tumblr in 2018 after they faced a backlash for not properly monitoring this type of content. This year, Verizon started to find buyers for Tumblr and shortly after PornHub showed interest. In case of an acquisition, PornHub wanted to end the Verizon-imposed porn ban but Verizon wasn’t interested in a deal with PornHub.

Now after Verizon’s Tumblr sale, Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg said that the company wants to maintain the existing policy that bans adult content. He also mentioned that he has long been a Tumblr user and that the site can be seen as complementary to WordPress.com. What the acquisition means for Tumblr users, remains to be seen, but Matt Mullenweg mentioned “In the underlying technology of our platforms, I think there are some good opportunities to standardize on the Open Source WordPress tech stack, but the front-end user experience on Tumblr will evolve on its own path. It has been so successful already, and we want to keep that going”.

What it means for WordPress.com users is not clear either. But if we start to speculate based on the term “standardize” he used in his statement, it’s likely that the company will enable sharing or reblogging across both services. It could also be that they bring registered users of both services closer together, which could also mean that it becomes easier for users of both services to comment and interact with each other. If we speculate further, it could become a reality that both services are integrated into the same feed or reader, which is how both communities could meet and interact with each other.

It’s however pretty clear that this was a very strategical and strong acquisition.

8 Comments »

  1. 🤔 I am deeply surprised by this. I thought that Tumblr was going to die a natural death.

    In my case, I have always had a preference for blogging than microblogging.

    Thanks for the update, Dennis!

    • Tumblr has never been my taste either. I think I had an account and used the wordpress.com feature that you can use to post stuff automatically to Twitter and so… it was also possible to reblog automatically to Tumblr but one day I discovered that images and text of my reposts were totally screwed on my Tumblr accounts (Yes, I really just logged in only once lol)… and then I deleted the account back then.

      It could still happen that Tumblr dies. I see two possibilities… they acquired Tumblr to bring both platforms together with cross-features but have them run individually as two different services… or they slowly bleed out Tumblr over the years and kill it at some point. This is how many companies get rid of the competition. Buying it up, and slowly killing it. If they do it right away, it would cause a backlash.

      But since Matt has a blog over there, he truly seems to like the platform. So, it might be more likely that they continue to run Tumblr as a separate service but with cross-features as said. I guess, in that case, we would profit here too… because the community would become larger if both communities can meet each other through the same reader/feed.

    • Yeah, that was my first thought too. So, either that… they might introduce cross-features or they bought it up to bleed it out over the long run and kill it at some point. We will see.

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