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Tumblr Looks Beyond the Banner Ad for Revenue

When Pinterest rose to power a few months ago, I counted Tumblr out. Not that they totally occupy the same space, but they’re both graphically-based posting boards with a fondness for grid structures. Pinterest takes that idea a step further, while Tumblr remains a mix of old school blogging with new school graphics.

What neither network has figured out is a way to make the site profitable – yet. Tumblr CEO David Karp talked to AdAge this week about his monetization strategies and I have to admit I’m impressed. I’m not sure that it will turn Tumblr into a profitable social network, but I applaud his creativity and verve. Yes, verve.

Karp wants to bypass traditional adsense / banner marketing in favor of a self-promotion system.

They started the trend this past February with the Highlighted Post option. Throw $1 into the pot and your post gets a special sticker to make your post standout from the rest in the dashboard.

There is a fairly long list of sticker options including ones made for marketers. You can mark you post with words such as “On sale now,” “Limited run,” “Buy this,” “Watch this,” “Today only,” and more. They have stickers for event promotion, celebrations, questions, fandoms and a plenty of random exclamations.

Karp says that they’re looking a variety of features that will help people promote their work and puts money in the bank.

Adwords isn’t a particularly useful or creative platform for a band debuting their first album or a photographer trying to get that gig. There’s a novel opportunity there, and we want to explore that as much as we want to make it easy for partners to participate in our network.

Tumblr is making participation really easy with a collection of new access points. They have a newly updated Android app to go with the iPhone and Blackberry apps. They also added a Facebook widget so you can get one social network to talk to the other. They even offer a call-in number, so you can create audio posts by phone. Tumblr also just made a deal with Spotify to bring music to the pages.

Tumblr gets my kudos of the week for out-of-the-box thinking. The site is extremely popular with creative people — artists, musicians, photographers, writers — so it only makes sense to get creative with monetization.

Finally, I leave you with a screencap of the About screen on today’s Tumblr. Like the network itself, the graphic tells the story.