"We're pretty opposed to advertising. It really turns our stomachs."
-- Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp during an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2010
David Karp stopped just short of eating his words yesterday when he announced that the microblogging platform he founded five years ago will begin offering the "Radar" post that appears on a Tumblr user's dashboard as an ad unit beginning May 2. He made the announcement during the closing keynote at Ad Age’s Digital Conference.
As recently as April 12, Karp had told Ad Age that advertising was “a complete last resort” for monetizing his site. When he spoke yesterday, he poked fun at the way Facebook and Google present ads saying they were "devoid of creativity." He also noted that his platform wasn’t text heavy, there's "no 140 characters, no little box" in Tumblr Radar, he said.
Under the Radar Advertising
Instead Karp impressed upon his audience, and thus the advertising world at large, that an ad unit on Tumblr will blend into the site and not look like most digital advertising or display ads found on the web today. IBM’s A Smarter Planet, Warby Parker’s take on dogs in glasses, and Capitol Couture, a Tumblr site created to promote the Hunger Games, are possible prime examples of what paid real estate on the platform might look like.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with Tumblr, it is a microblogging and social networking platform that allows users to post multimedia and other content to a short-form blog, named a "tumblelog." Users can follow other users' blogs, as well as make their blogs private. According to Quantcast, it’s the 14th most visited URL in the United States.
High Numbers, Now Where's the Revenue?
Not only has Tumblr recently passed the 50 million blog mark, Radar, the platform’s sweet spot gets 120 million impressions a day. According to ComScore Tumblr had 21 million U.S. unique visitors in March and 7 billion pages viewed.
With stats like that, it’s hard to imagine that Tumblr investors, who have pumped 125 million into building the platform, haven’t pressured Karp about how he is going to turn that success into dollars.
Perhaps that why Karp seemed so uncomfortable making the announcement. His closing keynote took less than ten minutes, allowed no room (there certainly was time) for questions, but did offer an invitation of sorts. "122,302 users signed up for Tumblr yesterday," he said. He displayed his email address on the screens before he dashed out of the room.