Tumblr is following the lead of virtually all its competitors and introducing a new paid subscription tool for artists, writers, bloggers, other creators, the Wall Street Journal first reported on Wednesday.
The once-massive blogging site has fallen on tough times. In 2018, Tumblr misread the room in a staggering fashion and implemented a sweeping ban on adult content. Tumblr’s hand was forced after Apple temporarily removed it from the iOS App Store over child porn that slipped past its moderators’ attention, but the move still resulted in an avalanche of criticism. It also alienated a large swathe of its fanbase, an unsurprising number of which were only there for the porn in the first place. Its then-owner Verizon flipped Tumblr to WordPress.com owner Automattic Inc. in 2019 for less than $3 million (the telecom giant had originally paid over $1.1 billion for it). In the aftermath, its porn filters continued to infuriate remaining users by flagging non-porn content en masse, and many of the holdout communities crumbled. Between 2018 and 2019, Tumblr may have lost up to a third of its traffic.
One might be forgiven for basically forgetting Tumblr exists. But more than a flicker of life remains. TechCrunch reported SimilarWeb data shows it has between 310 and 377 million page views each month, and while Tumblr declined to share monthly active user stats with the site, it did claim to have 11 million posts per day and 500 million blogs. So it’s hardly surprising that Tumblr sees an opportunity to catch up on rival platforms that either allow content creators to monetize their work or are rushing to do so (such as Facebook, Patreon, Substack, Twitter, and even Pinterest).
According to the Journal, Tumblr began testing a Post+ feature on Wednesday that allows select users to charge their followers $3.99, $5.99, or $9.99 monthly for access to premium content. Tumblr is taking a 5% cut.
Lance Willett, Tumblr’s chief product and technology officer, told the Journal that over 48% of Tumblr users belong to Gen Z, which is rapidly developing an expectation that their toiling in the content mines will result in some kind of financial reward. Artists, writers, musicians, and other creators on Tumblr already have ample methods to monetize their fanbases either by switching to a rival site or directing followers to pay for access to a private feed via a third party like Venmo, which Willett suggested was reason to simply do it in-house.
“When Tumblr first launched the product was perfectly attuned to millennial curation over creation, a kind of mood board,” Willett told the paper. “... When we looked at the younger generation, trying to figure out what would be the hook for them, we decided to make Post+, because it’s something that will push the boundaries and it’s following their behavior they’re already doing.”
“Not reserved only for professionals, or those with 10K followers or higher, Tumblr’s Post+ will push the boundaries of what’s considered money-making content on the internet: Shitposters, memelords, artists, fan fiction writers, all of the above and everyone in between will be able to create content while building their community of supporters, and getting paid with Post+,” a Tumblr spokesperson told TechCrunch.
Honestly, this does make sense—the main question is why Tumblr didn’t do this a lot sooner, like maybe before many of its communities fled for pastures greener in more ways than one. In any case, Tumblr told the Journal it hopes to have the ability for all users to charge for content, so long as it’s not super horned up, by fall 2021.