Ah, Tumblr. It’s been flying under the radar for years, home of sincere and arty youth, porn and GIFs.
Quietly working its way up to being one of the biggest ‘networks’ there is, with a super-dedicated and loyal group of (117m unique) users who call themselves ‘Tumblrs’.
And now Yahoo! buys it, causing consternation among Tumblr users. There are promises not to ‘screw it up’ from Yahoo!’s top brass, and many an article from the marketing world beard-scratching about what it means and how advertisers can cash in on the enormous audience. (As though that enormous audience has suddenly sprung into being overnight.)
A few commentators have talked about Tumblr’s recent decision to open up to advertising as being the solution for brands. And there’s been a lot of hand-wringing about how to introduce monetisation while not ruining the experience for Tumblr users – including search ads, in-line ads and dashboard ads.
I’m not concerned about how Tumblr makes money. I’m concerned with how brands can use it to connect with consumers. And you know what, advertising people? It’s not about paid media. It’s about creating content.
For a long time now, I’ve been talking to students at the ADMA course that I run, and at talks that I’ve delivered to Mumbrella 360 and the CMO summit, about the idea of curating content to deliver some sort of authority to publish.
What do I mean by this? Well, it’s simple. If you’re American Express, do you have any authority to talk to small business about their HR issues, productivity or marketing? No. Because American Express is a credit card company.
But American Express can provide an environment for other small business people to advise one another. And American Express can pay independent experts to give advice. And – and here’s the important bit – American Express can use Tumblr’s excellent functionality to reblog other people’s content. Effectively borrowing authority and providing a valuable service for its audience (we’ll bring info into one place so you don’t have to go searching all over the internet for it) into the bargain.
I’ve been talking to my clients about the benefit of utilising Tumblr (as a content distribution platform, not as an ad channel) for the past year and have struggled to persuade any Aussie marketers to take a gamble on it. Maybe now, with the well-known parent company and the headlines all over the marketing press, some of them will sit up and take some notice.
In the meantime, Yahoo! have a bunch of work to do to get the Tumblr user base on-side. As one user puts it:
“Guys. Just think about it. Yahoo! is taking over Tumblr. Brace yourselves. The parent blogs are coming.”
Richard Parker is head of strategy at content marketing agency Edge, where he works with brands including Woolworths, St George and Foxtel.