by Vivian Obarski
When news of Yahoo buying Tumblr hit the community, much of the reaction could be summed up in this gif (I’ll be using gifs, since really, that’s what we all use Tumblr for — gifs of cats doing cute things, hot actors, pretty pictures and memes):
Some of this is because honestly, Yahoo hasn’t been good with business recently. Anyone remember the resounding successes of Yahoo!360, Yahoo!Auctions, Yahoo!Tech, Yahoo!Mash or Yahoo!Geocities? Yeah. Me either.
But honestly, I initially greeted the news with a resounding “meh.” Business acquisitions occur all the time and I get Tumblr needing a flush of cash to keep servers running and the customer base happy as the blogging platform grows. Depending on who you talk to, Tumblr has 30 million-300 million active users (For the record, Tumblr’s not talking). Someone’s gotta pay for the servers and our ability to reblog gifs of Community.
My meh attitude changed to the NO NO NO NO NO cat this week. What changed it? When they started putting sponsored ads on the dashboard feed. I’m not talking about the sidebar, where people can buy ads. No, these ads were in the middle of my feed, as if I was following them. I know I’m not following The Purge’s tumblr, so when I saw this ad:
After clicking away from the page, I returned and the ads were gone. Which made me question my sanity, but then a little digging around made me realize I wasn’t the only one, which makes me glad I’m not seeing things (even though I was unable to sleep thanks to the Purge ads — talk about non-targeted advertising). But as I calmed down from my creeped-out adrenaline rush, I began thinking about how this may end up biting Tumblr in the ass.
I know this advertising isn’t new — Twitter already does it with sponsored tweets (I wasn’t thrilled, especially during the long state nightmare of 2012 with the never-ending election) and I know Facebook is infested with it (even though I don’t have a Facebook account) — and I understand that advertisers are seeing social media as a new frontier to get people to learn about their products.
But I really do wonder how effective this marketing is. So far Tumblr users (like myself) are blocking these sponsored tumblrs, Tumblr Savioring them and using Adblock to prevent seeing these ads on their dashboard. If anything, it’s just making me more annoyed given that Tumblr hasn’t updated its blogging platform to address user concerns such as the broken video player, the lack of ability to leave comments on posts, block potentially triggering posts or hide NSFW pictures. The most Tumblr staff seems interested in doing is cosmetic changes like adding icons to the top bar, moving the reblog buttons from the top to the bottom of a post and now, ads embedded in our dashboard feed, which doesn’t address the usability concerns of the platform.
Maybe that’s why I’m so irritated at this. Because it seems like David Karp and the crew are willing to coast along on the few things that make Tumblr great (ease of reblogging, the ability to follow many different things and the graphics on it) and not listen to the suggestions of its users. To me, the ads are just another ham-handed attempt to make the site work (this time on the commerce side), but without addressing the needs of its consumers.
Tumblr users: how do you feel about ads?