Verizon revealed on August 12 that it is selling Tumblr, an early social media unicorn, to Automattic, the parent company of WordPress. The highly visual blogging platform – home of memes, fandoms and artistic communities – was acquired by Yahoo for $1.1bn in 2013. Three years later, Yahoo wrote down the value of that acquisition by $482m.
Verizon, which acquired Yahoo and its affiliated websites in 2017, has now sold Tumblr for well below $20m, according to Axios. Later reports indicated that the selling price could even be as low as $3m.
It’s been a steady fall from grace for a platform that once commanded significant influence in the social media sphere. As sites like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Reddit have grown in popularity, Tumblr has seen its traffic wane.
As sites like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Reddit have grown in popularity, Tumblr has seen its traffic wane
Verizon’s decision to ban porn from the platform last year further dented Tumblr’s popularity, as many saw the site’s tolerance of adult content as one of its key selling points, distinguishing it from more public platforms like Instagram. This also made it a refuge for the LGBTQ community, some of whom saw it as a safe space where they could freely express their sexuality. According to Sensor Tower, the number of Tumblr’s first-time users declined 33 percent year-over-year last quarter.
Automattic said in a statement that it did not plan on bringing huge change to Tumblr, implying also that the adult content ban would not be reversed. Instead, it hoped Tumblr would serve as a “complementary” site to its flagship brand, WordPress. As part of the sale, Automattic also takes on Tumblr’s technologies and 200 employees.
Despite Tumblr’s financial woes and diminishing influence, the 450 million blogs on the platform tend to be run by highly engaged and active users. It’s hoped that Automattic could be a better partner for the blogging site in the long-term. For Verizon, on the other hand, this marks a significant scaling back of its operations within the spheres of media and digital advertising.