Posted February 2, 2012 7:54 am by with 1 comment

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Tumblr is categorized as a social blogging site. That’s a nice title until you realize that there are 42 million Tumblr sites that are generating content (I hope they are not counting my account that I have done nothing with). One would hope that there is something of worth is going on in a community that big.

Combine this with the fact that Tumblr is a free service that needs to turn all of those accounts into revenue and your thoughts probably go to advertising. But how and where? Well Tumblr thinks it may have a solution. Of course, in the name of journalistic integrity the “a” word is not mentioned but we are smart enough to read between the lines.

The New York Times reports

The popular social blogging site Tumblr is hiring writers and editors to cover the world of Tumblr.

Chris Mohney, a senior vice president for content at BlackBook Media, will be the site’s editor in chief. Jessica Bennett, a senior writer and editor at Newsweek and The Daily Beast, will be the executive editor and, she said, a kind of Tumblr correspondent.

“Basically, if Tumblr were a city of 42 million,” Ms. Bennett said, referring to the number of Tumblr blogs that exist, “I’m trying to figure out how we cover the ideas, themes and people who live in it.”

The talk is trying to keep people on the sites longer. While that’s a nice metric that will not pay the bills. How can they monetize the free service? There’s that “a” word again. It’s inevitable, isn’t it?

One can’t blame any business for trying to make money. After all, these free services that we all love to use and criticize are not public services. They are businesses. It’s making the move from free to “we need to make some money” model that seems to trip up most businesses like Tumblr.

So why does this happen? Companies like Tumblr have a hyper sensitivity to the relatively small minority of users that will cry foul when something of a commercial nature (that is generated by Tumblr not other Tumblr users) appears on the site. This content aggregation and curation model only makes sense if there is a revenue component to it. Tumblr will need to show some backbone during any transition because there will be whiners. It’s the Internet after all and people are curious in that they feel they can be outraged when things that are free to them change their little comfort zone. It’s not a healthy environment but it is very real.

Regardless of the ultimate goal, Tumblr’s new hires must have taken PR courses when they can produce the following

Mr. Mohney said that the forthcoming content will market Tumblr by highlighting how the site is being used, but, he added, “fun, cool, compelling and organic creation will go a lot further towards demonstrating the potential of this nascent creative population than simplistic or forced attempts at corporate boosterism.”

Ms. Bennett, when asked what statement Tumblr was making by bringing her and Mr. Mohney on board, said, “Tumblr is basically hiring a staff to celebrate creativity and innovation. How many companies can say that?”

That’s very nice Ms. Bennett but creativity and innovation don’t pay the bills. How will Tumblr make money from something like this is the real question. Any thoughts?

  • Cynthia Boris

    If they’re going to put up their own content pages, then they could sell ads and sponsorships for just that page – might work for awhile. But in the end, Tumblr is the graphic version of Livejournal, so it’s bound to go into the freemium model. Don’t pay and get ads, pay and you’re ad free.

    They’ll lose some people but if they keep the prices reasonable, it should work because their blogging model is unlike anything you find anywhere else on the web.