Monday, May 20, 2013
Can Yahoo afford to fall down on Tumblr?


Yahoo's a fascinating one to watch, isn't it? It has managed to build a reputation for itself as a ginormous web dinosaur, gobbling up companies, digesting them, and leaving a trail of huge dinosaur droppings behind.

But in reality, it hasn't really done that badly. Yes, Flickr was a reasonable photo sharing website, but it was already under threat from Facebook and Google due to its paid-for model and limited functionality. GeoCities was already a relic, so I'm not counting that as a failure. Maven was an acquisition of talent, rather than tech. It lost a bit of money on Kelkoo when it sold it, but you win some, you lose some, eh?

But the acquisition of Tumblr for a billion dollars is a whole other story. Aside from being new boss Marissa Mayer's first big purchase, Yahoo is not buying technology or people with Tumblr. It's buying content. Lots and lots and lots of content that it allegedly hopes to monetise through advertising.


Content, however, comes with something else: Emotion. The people that created that content feel extremely passionate about the content they create. People love their Tumblr blogs, while others love to read them.

Mayer promised not to 'screw up' Tumblr today (appropriately, via her own Tumblr blog). But it shouldn't be Tumblr she's worried about - if should be the people who own the 100 million or so blogs on the Tumblr platform that she needs to look after.

If this goes well, and Yahoo doesn't upset the community, the deal could be the making of Yahoo. It might own one of the web's hottest properties, and rake in cash from the associated advertising.

If this goes badly, the most well-known internet dinosaur might have 100 million people trying to hunt it down and kill it.