Yahoo is ready to pay $1.1 billion for Tumblr, many of whose users want nothing to do with Yahoo. I have been tracking Tumblr posts on Yahoo and here are two examples of how Tumblr users feel about the deal.
One feels like jumping into a deep hole out of frustration at the deal while another wants a share of the money because the content on Tumblr is produced by the users.
The colourful posts and animated GIFs with which Tumblr users are reacting to the deal show how different the new media is from the old media.
This was not how people reacted when AOL merged with Time Warner in the year 2000 or when Reuters merged with Thomson in 2008. This form of reaction was simply not feasible at the time. The Tumblr-kind of animated GIFs really post-dates the microblogging platform, which sprang to life only in 2007.
In just six years, Tumblr has risen from scratch to a billion-dollar property. Not that it would have been worth a billion dollars unless Yahoo was so desperate for it. Yahoo is paying a premium for Tumblr, which reportedly had a market valuation of $800 million.
Media companies are willing to pay a fortune for the posts, snapshots and videos of Joe Bloggs and his friends if the stuff can keep others entertained. That’s what this deal tells us. Crowd-sourced content or peer-to-peer entertainment has become big business. My little blog on its own may not be worth anything. But if I have one on Tumblr, that along with the rest is worth $1.1 billion to Yahoo.
Tumblr’s 26-year-old founder David Karp can laugh all the way to the bank. He is reported to own at least 25 per cent of Tumblr.
He is being rewarded for his patience. Tumblr has not been much of a money-maker, it is said, but maybe that’s because he has been keener on attracting more users than advertisers. In this respect, he has been like Mark Zuckerberg, three years his senior, who focused on building Facebook first before going for the big money.
I remember Tumblr in its early days. When it just had a couple of themes and what made it so darn attractive was the ease with which one could post videos. I remember posting Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley and Beatles videos on Tumblr.
Tumblr used to be compared with Posterous back then. Now Posterous has been swallowed up by Twitter while Tumblr – and this is important – will remain independent with Karp still in charge.
Tumblr has grown spectacularly in the last year. The Wall Street Journal reports:
New York-based Tumblr, founded in 2007, has 175 employees, more than 108 million blogs and, according to comScore Inc., had nearly 117 million unique users world-wide in March. That is up from around 58 million a year ago.
Tumblr may be small compared with Facebook, which has more than a billion users. But that makes Tumblr’s billion-dollar price all the more significant. Facebook is first and foremost a social network where people may write posts but are more likely to post photos and updates. Tumblr is primarily a microblogging platform where people post content – photos, GIFs, blog posts.
Yahoo has agreed to pay $1.1 billion for content that ranges from animated cartoons to expletive-ridden outbursts that will never appear in a newspaper. There’s been a sea change in the media business.
The Tumblr user who would like a share of the money is not making an unprecedented demand. Computer scientist Jaron Lanier writes in his book Who Owns the Future:
Pay people for information gleaned from them if that information turns out to be valuable. If observation of you yields data that makes a robot seem like a natural conversationalist, or for a political campaign to target voters for its message, then you ought to be owed money for the use of that valuable data.
Yahoo is paying for content generated by Tumblr users, though of course they had to use Tumblr to publish that content.