So Adweek asked marketers this afternoon to weigh in on whether Yahoo or Facebook would make a better parent for the site. Responses were split, with slightly more of the small sample contending that Tumblr would thrive more under the stewardship of Mark Zuckerberg's digital giant.
"My instinct tells me that an Instagram-led Facebook team [would] work better for the future of Tumblr than a Yahoo team," said Ian Schafer, the CEO of Deep Focus. "Tumblr reminds me more of Instagram than anything that Yahoo has ever done. Tumblr users would also categorically reject classic display advertising, which is Yahoo's bread and butter."
Corey Gehrt, strategy director for brands at Code and Theory, concurred. "Facebook has stronger equity in the feed on both desktop and mobile," he said. "The reason that something like the Instagram acquisition made sense is because Instagram can more or less serve as a content generator and [content-management system] for the Facebook feed. Tumblr could act in a very similar fashion. The direct integration would be a stretch in Yahoo's current form."
Both interactive platform firms could work as a Tumblr overseer, suggested David Clark, marketing vp at global strategy firm SDL. "Facebook may have the edge based on culture and the customer experiences they focus on creating," Clark stated. "However, Yahoo seems to have the will to make it work given where [CEO] Marissa Mayer is taking the company."
But again, other digital industry players favor a Yahoo-Tumblr scenario. Henry Cipolla, CTO of Localytics, said Yahoo would be the better parent because it has a firmer grasp on content than Facebook.
"Yahoo is better suited to manage Tumblr than Facebook because its bloggers are more likely to get value out of the integration," Cipolla explained. "Unlike Yahoo, Facebook is not a long-form publishing platform, and Facebook's ecosystem is more closed than Yahoo's. As a result, Tumblr's content would fit better with Yahoo and reach a wider audience."
Yahoo might win out in a potential bidding war—if Tumblr decides to sell—simply because it needs a boost more desperately than Facebook, contended Paran Johar, CEO of the Mobile Media Summit.
"Their need to extend their footprint aggressively into social and mobile and become a 'Web. 3.0' company is essential if they want to compete in the new-media landscape," Johar said. "Their ability to manage Tumblr will also be a natural as they can use their premium content to drive consumers deeper into specific blog subject matter and vice-versa."
If either company ends up with Tumblr in its portfolio, it's likely going to have significant challenges in terms of monetizing the property without turning off the blogging platform's young and notoriously anti-commercial audience.
For instance, when recently asked about ads becoming a bigger part of the site's experience, Erin Dooley, a 27-year-old digital content manager at happylucky, which runs Adidas Neo's Tumblr efforts, said, "I really hope they don't go in that direction."