Someday anthropologists will study the life cycle of a social network: developers create a site in their mom’s basement, it builds in popularity until it’s one of the most visited sites in America, the CEOs keeps finding spots for sponsored stories, it dies when there are more ads than users. While I do like to talk about the ad-saturated Facebook, this time I’m referring to Tumblr.
Tumblr set a goal to generate $100 million dollars in revenue in 2013, a severe increase from the $13 million made in 2012, according to the Los Angeles Times. Its newest way to do that is by charging $100,000 a pop for ads.
Now, make sure you read that last sentence very carefully: the site is charging $100,000 a pop for ads, not $100,000 for pop-up ads. Tumblr has been careful to incorporate ads in spaces that match their brand. Last year, their first sponsored posts started showing up on the side bar in a section called Tumblr Radar. Brands could pay to showcase content and blogs that users would find interesting. Unlike Facebook, Tumblr didn’t let their Radar grow all the way down their page. It is one box, that showcases one ad.
Now that ads are moving from Tumblr Radar into the dashboard with sponsored stories, users can expect similar content as seen in the original box. Tumblr wants sponsors to post the same sharable content that the rest of its users post. An ad’s success can be measured by the number of likes and reblogs. A sponsored post that gets a lot of notes is successful for the paying company and its partnership with Tumblr because the business created an ad that was on-brand and popular with the social network. The stories have to be well thought out.
Lee Brown, VP of Sales, posted about the new ad integration on the staff blog yesterday:
It works very simply: Every now and then you’ll see posts from our partners as you scroll through your mobile Dashboard.
For now, the sponsored stories are only showing up on the mobile apps, but will be moving to web pages in the near future. Users are immediately seeing the news ads. I opened my Tumblr app this morning and there, nestled in-between pictures of Anderson Cooper holding Grumpy Cat and a Family Guy gif set, I found this:
The little dollar sign surrounded by rays lets users know that the post was paid for. The ad is promoting The Great Gatsby movie, a flick that already has a strong Tumblr fandom. The sponsored post in the first picture is sponsored by GE and is a gif of steam rising over an airplane engine. Tumblr isn’t a site to advertise the latest GE washer/dryer set, it’s a place to promote your brand through art and quality content.
This move could either be a great revenue boost for Tumblr or begin the Facebookification of the social network. What do you think?