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Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg particulars Tumblr’s future after re-org


Nov 11, 2023


This week, WordPress.com proprietor Matt Mullenweg confirmed his firm can be shifting the vast majority of Tumblr’s workforce to different areas at dad or mum firm Automattic in gentle of the social running a blog website’s continued monetary woes. After acknowledging and explaining the that means behind a leaked inner memo detailing the employees modifications, Mullenweg then went on to subject plenty of questions on Tumblr’s future in an AMA (Ask Me Something) session on his personal Tumblr weblog. Right here, the exec responded to questions on Tumblr’s plans for current merchandise, like Tumblr Stay, its monetization efforts, insurance policies, and its deliberate integration with the decentralized social networking protocol ActivityPub, which Mullenweg had earlier mentioned was within the works.

TechCrunch’s Amanda Silberling broke the information of the Tumblr re-org, noting that 139 of the positioning’s employees can be moved to different tasks at Automattic, the dad or mum firm to not solely Tumblr and WordPress.com, but additionally WP VIP, Day One, Pocket Casts, WooCommerce, and different apps and providers, together with the lately acquired all-in-one texting app Texts.com.

However Mullenweg’s AMA supplied much more perception into how the corporate plans to run Tumblr, the running a blog website it picked up from Verizon for $3 million in 2019 Although the acquisition worth was a steal — particularly given Yahoo earlier purchased it for over a billion {dollars} — the enterprise itself is dropping $30 million per 12 months. That necessitated the re-org.

Under are a number of the key takeaways from Mullenweg’s alternate with Tumblr customers through the AMA, which make clear what’s forward for Tumblr in 2024 and past.

When are the employees modifications occurring?

Mullenweg mentioned the modifications to the Tumblr crew will occur on December 31, 2023. He mentioned the crew will probably be introduced with different tasks at Automattic and can be capable of rank their high three picks, as employees is reassigned. The crew impacted is named “Bumblr” which is the interior title for the product aspect of Tumblr.

The transfer was not a shock, he added — the Tumblr crew has recognized for over a 12 months that if it couldn’t get the income up, a few of them must work on different issues that make the corporate cash.

Tumblr employees being reassigned will be capable of select from the next: WP.com, WooCommerce, Jetpack, Day One, Pocket Casts, WP VIP, .Org, Utilized AI, Texts, self-serve promoting (Blaze), Newspack, Pressable, and Gravatar.

Why have been some folks laid off with out being reassigned?

Mullenweg admitted that the corporate, like many, does interact in efficiency administration opinions and generally which means persons are let go.

“Automattic is repeatedly hiring and firing folks to attempt to create the most effective open net tech crew on the planet,” he wrote.

In different phrases, some folks have been laid off nevertheless it wasn’t due to Tumblr’s monetary woes.

Will Tumblr’s localization plans be impacted by the employees modifications?

Mullenweg confirmed that translation and localization will proceed, and will not be impacted by the modifications.

What does success at Tumblr appear to be?

The WordPress exec mentioned a profitable model of Tumblr would see it turning into a spot that “everybody goes to hang around on-line” with a “billion micro-communities.” He didn’t share specifics, like how a lot cash that may require, although.

What are Tumblr’s monetization plans?

Tumblr immediately gives a subscription which is at the moment the easiest way to help the positioning, Mullenweg mentioned. Customers can select from both the Tumblr Supporter badge for $29.99/12 months or $2.99/month or subscribe to a similarly-priced ad-free providing. Subscribing on the net as a substitute of in-app permits Tumblr to maintain extra of the income because it doesn’t need to pay app retailer commissions.

Nonetheless, out of Tumblr’s 11.5 million month-to-month lively customers, solely 27,000 are subscribers (0.2%). If 10-20% subscribed, Tumblr can be in fine condition, Mullenweg famous. Then, “we might run the positioning perpetually,” he shared.

What’s extra, he mentioned the Tumblr Supporter badge hasn’t been very profitable by itself, with solely 2,300 complete subscribers to that product.

In response to a different query, Mullenweg steered that Tumblr customers might present subscriptions, ask folks to subscribe, and be supportive of advertisers and types which might be supporting Tumblr.

He talked about, too, some modifications forward for TumblrMart. Whereas the digital items and subscriptions will proceed, Tumblr will seemingly need to “cut back the bodily stuff” because it was solely worthwhile on a small scale. (And the particular person operating it doesn’t need to anymore, Mullenweg famous.)

In different responses, Mullenweg seemed to be contemplating methods to help Tumblr through advertisements in several methods.

What’s the way forward for promoting on Tumblr?

Mullenweg mentioned the overwhelming majority of advert income on Tumblr is from programmatic advertisements, as a result of plenty of components, together with the positioning’s declining site visitors and numerous assaults on manufacturers operating advertisements from Tumblr’s consumer base. He added that self-serve advertisements with Blaze have “gone nicely” and that tooling could be re-used throughout Tumblr, WooCommerce, and WordPress.

Nonetheless, he famous that Blaze and Advert-free’s adoption is so small they’ll’t help Tumblr’s some 1,000 servers or its worker salaries.

The exec added he’s fascinated about new methods to permit advertisers to extra simply duplicate campaigns they’re operating elsewhere with related codecs, which might elevate the standard of Tumblr’s advertisements. This may very well be focused at manufacturers seeking to transfer some proportion of their advert funds away from Twitter/X, for instance.

Will Tumblr help shifting blogs to WordPress.com?

Right here, the exec was a bit obscure on future plans, however mentioned Tumblr immediately has a full export possibility out there and WordPress can import content material. Nonetheless, truly shifting Tumblr blogs to WordPress.com can be a “tough migration,” Mullenweg mentioned, however hinted that new know-how like AI will make it simpler.

How will Tumblr’s product change in 2024?

Mullenweg admitted the crew had been unfold too skinny and spent an excessive amount of effort on issues that didn’t work. In 2024, the corporate will “hone in on” the elements of Tumblr folks love and put an finish to the issues that don’t work.

He steered that Tumblr will proceed to innovate, as nicely, saying:

“We’ll proceed [to] keep on the bleeding fringe of what know-how permits and permits, and hopefully present strain for different social networks to step up their sport, as they’ve with dozens of options Tumblr invented and others adopted.”

Areas of curiosity he cited have been photographs, which he mentioned have been simple, however famous streaming high-res video would must be paid (however not costly.) He additionally famous that Automattic has some video know-how it might lean on with VideoPress.

By way of missed alternatives, Mullenweg lamented the demise of the Publish+ creator subscription, which might have directed all funds to creators with out Tumblr taking a minimize. However misinformation about fan fic writers being sued by copyright holders led to a coordinated assault marketing campaign that led to each launch creator canceling this system, he mentioned.

“It was unhappy, as a result of this was a characteristic customers and creators mentioned they wished, and we prioritized making customers cash over tasks that may make us cash,” Mullenweg wrote.

Is Tumblr Stay shutting down?

The exec hinted that Tumblr Stay — a livestreaming video characteristic that Tumblr customers haven’t appreciated — may very well be chopping block. He mentioned that in 2024 Tumblr would “streamline a number of the further issues that have been launched (like Stay) that haven’t gotten the adoption we hoped.”

In responses to different questions, Mullenweg additionally mentioned that Tumblr would “sundown or rollback some issues we tried that didn’t work,” and even outright acknowledged that Stay itself will probably be re-assesed in January 2024 as to “whether or not it needs to be part of the Tumblr app anymore.”

How Tumblr is coping with trolls?

The troll query was a bit off-topic when it comes to Tumblr’s future as a enterprise, and as a substitute spoke to the way forward for the positioning’s tradition. Mullenweg mentioned that he believes “tremendous trolls” solely account for lower than 0.5% of Tumblr’s consumer base. Nonetheless, they’ll have an outsized affect, he admitted.

Regardless of the employees modifications, the corporate plans to extend its funding in Belief & Security — the crew that offers with bots, trolling, assaults, and hate speech — and can ban accounts participating in these behaviors. It should additionally stop these trolls from registering new accounts and repeating their habits, he mentioned.

What’s happening with the ActivityPub integration for Tumblr?

Mullenweg introduced a 12 months in the past that Tumblr would add help for ActivityPub, the decentralized social networking protocol that helps apps like Twitter competitor Mastodon and others. However, apparently, that challenge has been placed on the again burner. A Tumblr worker mentioned it’s now one thing on the “Tumblr Labs” record and is being evaluated.

Within the AMA, Mullenweg solely vaguely cleared up the confusion over the state of the challenge by saying that:

“Each future for Tumblr that I’m concerned in will embrace it being extra open, supporting extra requirements, APIs, and open supply.” 

Will Tumblr un-ban porn?

Nope. Artwork is allowed, however not “hardcore stuff,” Mullenweg mentioned.


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