Why Tumblr’s Ads Will Be Nothing Like Facebook’s, Google’s

By Devon Glenn 

Tumblr is determined to turn its blog network into an advertising business without alienating the people who will have to look at the ads. But the same models that work for Google and Facebook will not work for Tumblr.

In a recent interview, Tumblr CEO David Karp told IT Pro‘s Matthew Hall:

“Instead of focusing on the hyper-targeting that Google and Facebook are selling [to] advertisers right now – a direct response from the audience – we have built our advertising products around creative brand advertising because we’re a media network. We have advertisers who are, rather than trying to capture intent, are trying to create intent.”

Mediabistro Social Curation Summit

Tumblr’s revenue model used to be based on themes that people could purchase to personalize their blogs. But the users had other plans for the site.

At the Social Curation Summit on July 31, 2012, Tumblr VP of product Derek Gottfrid described Tumblr as a trio of concentric circles: the audience was the largest part of the network’s user base, followed by curators who cherry-pick the best blogs, with a smaller number of actual bloggers at the center.

When the company upgraded its iOS app in January 2012, the team expected this model to shift as users took pictures with their phones and uploaded them to the site like they would on Instagram. “We thought it would be more creation,” Gottfrid explained, but much like on the desktop version, mobile users preferred to explore the blogs and reblog their favorite posts — consumption accounted for 80 percent of  mobile activity.

Facebook, in contrast, “has a lot more going on there,” Gottfrid said. “It’s not just about media consumption.”

But as Karp pointed out in his interview with IT Pro, “[There] is a mismatch of service that these big networks have centered on, grabbing that click when that person is unlikely to be thinking about wedding dresses right now or looking for an iPod at the cheapest price they can get.”

Tumblr is looking for a more integrated approach, offering style and brand recognition rather than an immediate call to action. The company starting selling ads in May 2012. “We put brands on an equal footing with users,” said Gottfrid. “The challenge is how to capture user value.”