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Why I’m trusting Yahoo! with Tumblr

Posted by Ian McKee on 21st May 2013

I’m inclined to think that the timing of Yahoo!’s announcement of the all new Flickr (with one terabyte of free space!) on the same day as the announcement of the Tumblr $1.1 billion acquisition is no coincidence.

A quick disclosure: I used to work on the UK PR for Yahoo! and continue to have a positive, although I’d like to think well informed and rounded, opinion towards the company and brand. And with that experience, I can say timing these two announcements together was a better PR move than I ever saw come from the company first hand.

A second disclosure: I love Tumblr. It’s not about over-sharing your personal life, one-upmanship, internet point scoring, or flooded with geeky tech talk. A genuine community, driven by creativity, humour and way more than the one joke repeated blogs that get picked up on twitter.

So as you would expect, I have a predisposition to hoping that all Yahoo!’s promises will be kept. But I also think there’s more than sentimentality to that hope.

Big numbers

Firstly, this deal does make sense business wise. $1.1 billion is a big number, but so is 184 million, the number of users Tumblr had at last count. It’s more than Instagram has now, and a lot more than Instagram had at the time of its Facebook acquisition. Not that that comparison necessarily justifies the spend, but it helps put it in perspective. Yahoo! is a $26 billion dollar company with around 170 million US users on a downward trend, as opposed to Tumblr’s 184 million global users, on a steep upward one.

Be cool

From the PR manoeuvring it’s easy to dissect that this move is in part one to address Yahoo!’s image, as I’d argue was the main motivation behind the Summly acquisition. But that isn’t to say that Yahoo! cannot learn from Tumblr’s culture. It’s a very successful business already, and the reason that creative culture has been cultivated among the community is hugely down to the team behind it. It makes sense for Yahoo! to allow them to continue with their successful formula for gaining engaged users and help them with their efforts to monetise it.

Track record

OK, so this all sounds a bit like we’re back in March 2005, when Yahoo! bought Flickr. Which is why relaunching the new Flickr at the same time as announcing the deal is the best possible thing Yahoo! could do to allay Tumblr users’ fears. Yahoo! nearly ruined Flickr not by interfering, but by quite the opposite, by a complete lack of involvement in developing the site. It was basically left alone for five years, which is a very long time in internet years, and fell behind in terms of design, user experience and mobile strategy.

Now Flickr has relaunched with a great new look, a decent mobile strategy (the area Instagram was threatening to eat its lunch) and a huge one terabyte gift to its users. The worry, if there is one, is not Yahoo! intefering. It is that Yahoo! will leave Tumblr too alone, and not give it the resource to keep building a better product. It is also worth mentioning that Tumblr has had a pretty poor track record for down time, it is a site with huge user figures and relatively low levels of investment thus far. That resource that Yahoo! can offer could be very handy.

I have a lot of faith in Yahoo! CEO Marissa Meyer, even the small things like the excellent new Yahoo! Weather App have been early indicators that she is taking the right approach with the company. There is every reason to believe this deal will be a good move for both Yahoo! and Tumblr.

photo credit: aaronparecki

Ian McKee

Ian started out his career working in travel PR, working for tourist boards, airlines and hotel groups. Whilst there he carved out a position as a digital communications expert, managing social media, SEO and email marketing campaigns for clients.