Yahoo and Tumblr: A Wasted Opportunity for Digital Media Innovation?

After acquiring one of the most trafficked sites on the web, Yahoo may not be making the most of the Tumblr platform.

Acquisitions are one of the driving forces in the social media; larger companies obtain new talent, audiences, features and technology; for the smaller services there’s the potential to go mainstream. However, both parties need to recognize the strengths of the merger, or, like Yahoo and Tumblr, the acquisition could be a wasted opportunity.

Yahoo acquired Tumblr back in 2013, and continued to assure users it would not change Tumblr as it had done with other acquisitions in the past. But the intervening time has resulted in Yahoo making decisions the Tumblr community viewed as an assault on how they used the site.

Former Tumblr head of media and digital media consultant Mark Coatney noted that Yahoo is missing out on some great opportunities when it comes to Tumblr. Coatney discussed in a blog post how Yahoo lacks a coherent editorial voice, and has a content platform in Tumblr that is being underutilized and mismanaged:

What Yahoo has done with their digital magazines is take Tumblr content, reformat into a way that displays in a more conventional format, and in the process lose much of the benefits of using Tumblr in the first place. … The thing is, Tumblr can be a great platform for content — if you use Tumblr the way core users of the platform do. That means short form stories, photo-driven content, and liberal reblogging.

Coatney pointed out that Yahoo seems attached to a digital magazine style of publishing within its networks, and this approach simply doesn’t work for Tumblr. If Yahoo were to engage with Tumblr for what it is — a social conversation platform, not a broadcasting platform — the parent company likely see more success. Blasting updates out without interacting in the Tumblr style doesn’t work for Tumblr’s audience.

He also accused Yahoo of critically under promoting Tumblr through its other services. This is a clear example of Yahoo missing an opportunity to convert readers into Tumblr users, and to keep more people within its circle of sites.

Integration of acquired sites and services is what makes a merger or acquisition worth the money. Bringing users into a social sphere where they can share, like, reblog, and spread content does wonders for engagement. But ignoring the benefits of integration has done nothing to make Tumblr a brand leading Yahoo product.