Tumblr really wants to be more than a collection of cute animal pictures. In fact, it views large publishers as an essential part of its future. Tumblr’s mindset is that quality content from these publishers grows audiences.
“At Tumblr, there’s a recognition that Tumblr is better when you get better stuff on it,” Mark Coatney, Tumblr’s media evangelist, told Josh Sternberg in an interview.
It’s a difficult sell, as not much direct traffic is sent to publishers directly from Tumblr. But Newsweek senior writer Jessica Bennett told Sternberg that it’s a way “to connect with an audience outside the usual network of Newsweek/Daily Beast reader.”
(A list of some news organizations on Tumblr can be found in this earlier post.)
This same shift is currently taking place at BuzzFeed, which hired Ben Smith from POLITICO to be the site’s editor-in-chief and add original, journalistic content to the site. The site is perhaps best known for cute galleries of cats.
“I think the thing that I’m most excited about is having the social Web be the starting point,” BuzzFeed (and Huffington Post) Co-Founder Jonah Peretti told The Atlantic Wire. “That starting point is a huge advantage for a news site, and we want to build a big social news organization.”
And then there’s the case of Ben Huh, the CEO of the Cheezburger network, which home of even more sites that are chock-full of meme like I Can Has Cheezburger? and the FAIL Blog. Huh is working on a side project called the Moby Dick Project, with which he wants to reinvent how news is produced and consumed. It’s a formidable undertaking, and one that many have watched.
The fact of the matter is that these wildly successful social networks and websites see journalism (and hiring journalists) as an important part of their future. It’s encouraging that they are investing in journalism, because they are seeing its value in bringing in quality audiences and further growing their traffic.