Starting Friday the tech world was abuzz with talk of Yahoo! buying Tumblr for $1.1 billion. At the time it seemed like just a rumor, but it quickly coalesced, ending with a press release this morning trumpeting Yahoo!’s “promise not to screw it up“.
We’ve been working with Tumblr since we started and have been one of Tumblr’s A-List partners since they introduced the program in November of last year. A number of our brands are quite active and successful on the platform including American Express OPEN Forum, Denny’s and GE.
Anyway, since everyone is discussing the news this morning I thought I’d share some of my thinking around what this means for Yahoo!, Tumblr and brands.
First off, there is one main and simple reason Y! is buying Tumblr: It’s an entree into social and one of only seven global social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and G+ being the others). With all consumer attention moving to social it would be impossible for Y! To compete without a car in the race.
With that said, there are a few specifics tumblr brings that are worth pointing out:
- Streams: The consumer expectation for content these days is best summarized by the “pull-to-refresh” action. Streams are the primary way people are consuming these days and to compete at the platform level (which Y! clearly wants), you need to own your own stream, not just have your content live in the other platforms’ streams.
- Mobile: One of my favorite quotes from David Karp was when he introduced Tumblr ads to the audience at the AdAge Digital Conference last year. What he said was, “You’ve already seen our ad unit,” it’s the post. This sort of content-as-ads is clearly the future of digital advertising, but not just because it works on the web in your dashboard/newsfeed/stream. It’s also the future because its the thing that works in mobile. While so many others are looking for silver bullet ad formats, the social platforms have recognized that promoted posts make the perfect leap to the small screen, something that’s clearly crucial to Y!’s future. Yahoo’s banner ad business just won’t work in mobile in its current form.
- Data: Marissa Mayer has talked a lot about personalization since taking the helm at Y! To do personalization successfully in the next era of the web is going to be about combining the implicit data of clicks and cookies with the explicit data of the interest graph and the content people are producing day-in-and-day-out across social (if you want more evidence of this look at Google’s huge investment in G+ to fill the hole for them). While this data will be used to make content recommendations, it’s ultimately most valuable to the platform as a way to infer what brands and products people are interested in before they have shown any intent to purchase them. This is about top of the funnel advertising, the creation of intent, and to compete successfully Y! needed a way to deliver this sort of consumer insight to brands.
- Always-On: One of the biggest challenges in modern marketing is moving beyond episodic, campaign-based thinking and into social content that is always-on. Like most traditional publishers, Yahoo! has the challenge that all banners are bought and sold around campaigns. With Tumblr, Yahoo! is now part of helping brands create an always-on content model.
Overall this is a big win for social and further proof that marketing is continuing to move towards real-time content creation at the intersection of brand voice and cultural relevance While everyone is focused (and concerned) that we’re going to start seeing Yahoo! ads on Tumblr, I actually think the opposite is much more likely. As more and more brands come onto Tumblr as organic content creators and pay to promote their content, Yahoo! will find a way for this original brand content to live in the context of the broader platform, giving marketers expanded reach and engagement.
Overall a big congrats to the Tumblr team. It’s awesome to see continued success for NYC startups. We’re excited to continue to work together and see what’s in store.
I was on WSJ TV this morning talking about the sale. Here’s the video: