Verizon Communications Inc. agreed to sell its blogging website, Tumblr, to the popular online-publishing tool, WordPress.com, for an undisclosed amount. Further, the plans of reversing recently established restrictions on adult content on the website remain the same.
Tumblr is a free social media service that hosts millions of blogs and where users can upload photos, music, and art. The platform has grown popular due to its unique set of demographics, with users expressing their individualities from a different perspective.
“Tumblr is a marquee brand that has started movements, allowed for true identities to blossom and become home to many creative communities and fandoms,” Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan said in a statement.
“We are proud of what the team has accomplished and are happy to have found the perfect partner in Automattic, whose expertise and track record will unlock new and exciting possibilities for Tumblr and its users,” the CEO added.
Automattic Inc. acquisition of Tumblr will also take on about 200 staffers, the companies said. So far, Tumble will be Automattic’s largest purchase in terms of price and headcount, the company’s Chief Executive Matt Mullenweg said in an interview.
According to a report, Automattic will be shelling out at least $20 million and as low as $3 million to buy Tumblr, a significant difference from the $1.1 billion Yahoo spent to buy the blogging site in 2013. In the past, Tumblr was one of the fasts growing startups and a formidable competition for other popular social media platforms such as Facebook.
After Yahoo’s acquisition, however, Tumblr failed to generate meaningful revenue for the company, prompting the company to write down the site’s value by $230 million in 2016. Tumblr, while unprofitable, hosts more than 450 million blogs.
In 2017, Verizon bought Yahoo with hopes of expanding its business towards building a digital media and advertising arm. However, Verizon struggled with meeting revenue targets and has decided to revamp the media arm, which eventually led to selling Tumblr back in May.
Furthermore, Verizon previously discussed to the Securities and Exchange Commission that its media business had “lower-than-expected revenues and earnings” and “lower-than-expected benefits from the integration of the Yahoo Inc. and AOL Inc. businesses.”
Now, the company has decided that it will start to focus on subscription and original content through its Yahoo and AOL web properties such as HuffPost, TechCrunch, feminist media brand, Makers, and celebrity-interview site, Build.
Gowrappan called Automattic “the perfect partner” for Tumblr, saying that the buyer’s “expertise and track record will unlock new and exciting possibilities for Tumblr and its users.”
Meanwhile, Tumblr’s chief executive, Jeff D’Onofrio, welcomed the acquisition, tweeting that he was “most excited for what this means for the entire Tumblr community.
“There is much more to do to make your experience a better one, and I’m super confident that we are in great hands with this news. Tumblr and WordPress share common founding principles. The plane has landed on a friendly runway. Now it is time to freshen up the jets,” D’Onofrio discussed.
Despite the upcoming acquisition and transition with different management, Tumblr is unlikely to reverse the ban on adult or pornographic content that proliferated on the website in the past.
In May 2019, Tumblr was accused of unacceptable monitoring with regard to the pornographic content on the website. Reportedly, there was potential content that encouraged child pornography, resulting in Tumblr’s app being temporarily removed from the Apple App Store.
In response, the blogging site decided that it will ban all adult content from all angles as part of their efforts in combatting child pornography. A decision which Tumblr’s chief executive, D’Onofrio, said would be harmful to the website’s performance in the long run, “it became clear that without this content we have the opportunity to create a place where more people feel comfortable expressing themselves.”
Due to this, Pornhub discussed that it wanted to buy Tumblr and end the site’s Verizon-imposed porn ban, and hopefully bring the blogging site to its previous niche, that had allowed users to freely express themselves in this platform.
However, that did not go along with Verizon’s parting vision for Tumblr and has evidently decided to sell to WordPress.com
Mullenweg said his company intends to maintain the existing policy that bans adult content. He added that he has long been a Tumblr user and sees the site as complementary to WordPress.com. “It’s just fun,” he said of Tumblr. “We’re not going to change any of that.”
Regarding how Automattic plans to take Tumblr in the future, Mullenweg said in a blog post: “When the possibility to join forces became concrete, it felt like a once-in-a-generation opportunity to have two beloved platforms work alongside each other to build a better, more open, more inclusive—and, frankly, more fun Web. I knew we had to do it,” he wrote.
As for Tumblr’s underlying technology, Mullenweg wrote that “there are some good opportunities to standardize on the Open Source WordPress tech stack, but the front-end user experience on Tumblr will evolve on its own path.”