Lots of great information out there on the Yahoo-Tumblr deal, but I keep seeing posts comparing Tumblr to Wordpress and referring to it as a "blogging platform".
While that might be technically accurate, just as you might still refer to Twitter as a "micro-blogging" platform, it reflects little understanding to how Tumblr is used today and why Yahoo is buying it.
First and foremost, Tumblr is a social platform. Users post media to Tumblr and it gets shared. A lot. If you look at their user numbers, it tells a lot of the story. As of April, 2013, Tumblr had 170 million users and 100 million "blogs". In other words, its usage is more like Twitter - where most people who are active on the platform both author/share as well as read content. Contrast that to a platform like Wordpress, where relatively few people author content, compared to the numbers who consume it.
The second key difference is demographics. A recent Pew internet study estimates that 13% of online users 18-29 use Tumblr vs only 5% of those 30-49. Yet Pew's cutoff at age 18 causes them to miss the key Tumblr demographic - teens and tweens, or to be more specific, female teens and tweens.
Another recent study from Garry Tan using Survata data from Y Combinator shows that of those age 13-18, Tumblr has stronger usage than Facebook.
Surveys and studies aside, I can just ask my 14-year-old daughter for insights. She doesn't use Facebook at all. While some of her friends have accounts, they rarely use them. "Facebook is for old people" according to them (perhaps validated by the fact that her grandmother is now on Facebook using the iPad she got for Christmas). She and her friends are active on Twitter, Skype, Tumblr and, of couse, texting.
If you ask her or her friends to name a blog platform, they couldn't tell you one. And they sure wouldn't consider Tumblr one. "Tumblr is for sharing cat gifs" was her response when I asked her about Tumblr.
So, what Yahoo is acquiring is not a blog platform. We should immediately stop the calls I've seen for all Yahoo blogs to switch over to being authored on Tumblr. Yahoo is acquiring a highly social platform that is used by (mostly female) millenials to share memes and funny images with friends.
That opens up many possibilities for Yahoo, none of which should involve slapping a bunch of banner ads on Tumblr pages.
As TechCrunch's Erick Shonfeld points out, "Tumblr is also an amazing testbed for new forms of social advertising. Yahoo can now go up against Twitter in that arena"
Adds Globe & Mail's Shane Dingman, "Tumblr's main value isn't its flexible blog template, it is designed to be a vector for viral sharing"
Tumblr is closer to Twitter or Facebook than it is to Wordpress, Posterous or other blogging platforms.
I don't know whether the Yahoo acquisition will ultimately be good for Tumblr (though it's a nice exit for David Karp and a win for the NYC startup scene). But what they are acquiring is a way to begin to enage a demographic that otherwise barely knows they exist. And if they are careful, and let the Tumblr team largely stay independent, they will probably learn more about social media and younger users than they could in any other way. And in keeping Tumblr away from Facebook, Microsoft and other potential suitors, they keep Yahoo relevant in a way that it's not been in years.