Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Head Over Heels For Tumblr

John Mayer says he has left Twitter for Tumblr, and in the process has ignited a mini-firestorm over which site is the future of free expression. I hardly see the need to take sides. It’s classic And/And (further borne out by both T & T having common investors such as Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures).

Twitter is haiku (105 million users doing 140 characters); it’s a brilliant shortform broadcast/distribution tool. Tumblr lets you stretch your legs. Tumblelogs are “a simple new way to share anything you find, love, hate, or create.”

Tumblr is planning to turn its popularity into the folding stuff. The web has come into its own with the rise of social networking (Facebook got to be cashflow positive at 300 million signups). Making and engaging with user-created content has never been easier. But where the guys with critical mass have struggled is in how to monetize their momentum without killing their user experience – something conventional push-based advertising models have made difficult.

Tumblr seems to have caught the spirit of the revolution. Their PR says “the result is often a stream of consciousness of the author. It is one of the easiest and most-elegant ways to create personal expression online.” Their revenue-making model is said to be about participation. Instead of cluttering their famously clean interface with ads they’re planning to sell users customized themes, or stickers that fans can plug on a Tumblr microblog.

I shake my head and say “Good luck” – but with 4.5 million users, and a seriously big billion pageviews per month, they’re onto something... I'm not sure exactly what yet.