The great thing about calling a project an “experiment” is that if it fails, you can always say you were just running a test. People take that word less seriously than “new initiative” or “business venture.” Tumblr’s Storyboard experiment has come to an end, and it appears that it was not a success. Five editors are now changing jobs as Tumblr closes the door on this chapter of its lifespan.
The idea of storyboard was teased in January of 2012 with a job post asking for content creators and curators. The job advert led to the official launch in April, with four editors posting on topics ranging from the New York Times to Pomeranians running in slow motion. The idea was to provide a blog that showcases the lives of Tumblr users and introduces people to new ideas and lifestyles. Someone who initially signed up on the site to reblog cat photos could discover the world of poetry with the help of a single article by the editorial staff.
Without providing concrete reasons, Tumblr announced the death of Storyboard in a blog post yesterday. They simply said the experiment had run its course. While the page will be missed, its closure isn’t an indicator that Tumblr as a whole is failing… or even slowing down. In November, Tumblr officially hit 170 million monthly users – an increase from 120 million users in January 2012. Despite its popularity, the website has remained under the radar of marketers, mostly because they don’t know what it is or what to do with it.
Initially, marketers want to dub Tumblr a social network or microblogging site. They create content and then want to treat it the same way as Twitter and Pinterest. The main difference between the two is that Pinterest and Twitter encourage users to visit new sites, but Tumblr wants to keep users there, and users don’t want to leave. Take a blog post about yoga poses for example. A social media manager that posts a link on Twitter and then pins a picture of a woman meditating on Pinterest will have success on those sites. People will click-through to the blog and enjoy the content. But that won’t work on Tumblr. The manager should instead repost the article in full and link back to the original as a source.
CEO David Karp’s vision for Tumblr isn’t a place to promote blogs or brands. It’s a platform to post new, original content. As he explained in a January interview with Forbes:
The work that we’re doing now is really pushing these marketers to understand that even though it’s the Internet, they really do need to work at making great content.
Tumblr users don’t want to leave the page or visit a different site to find content, they want to see it right there on their dashboard. It’s meant to be a home for original content, not a curation platform for your work or the work of your peers. As Tumblr keeps growing there will be more experimentation in its future. Storyboard may be dead, but if David Karp has his way, whatever comes next will match the level of quality that he asks of marketers.