Yahoo bought Tumblr: now what?
- Blog Post by: James Lileks
- May 20, 2013 - 12:16 PM
One day you will call up a page on the Internet and read that Braxi bought MogaZik, and think: man, someone got rich. Wonder how that will work. Right now the sentence makes no sense, just as “Yahoo buys Tumblr” would have meant nothing in 1993. So WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
1. Nothing, if Yahoo is smart. At least nothing the users will note. They’ll be on the lookout for signs that everything has been spoiled with clueless “corporate” meddling - when Tumblr itself added a small drop-down box that encouraged people to sign up, some users were ANGRY that the aesthetic was being altered on a free site that hosted anything they put up and didn’t have ads.
But Yahoo will probably introduce tiny ads - you pay a billion for something, eventually you get around to wondering if it might make you some money. Perhaps they will share the revenue, like Google. Of course, commerce would spoil the purity of Tumblr. Which brings us to . . .
2. PR0N and lots of it. Either they’ll let it be or roll out a slow winnow. Which will drive some people to another platform. Like MySpace! Just kidding. No one will ever go back there. It's GeoCities by now.
So far, no changes: Yahoo’s CEO said the X-rated stuff can stay.
3. BuzzFeed says “The real Reason Yahoo is Buying Tumblr” is because the young demo doesn’t know what it is.
When Yahoo was founded, Tumblr’s most important demographic wasn’t even born. This — not profit or monthly active user numbers or corporate image-making — is what explains why Yahoo wants Tumblr.
Yahoo is not the kind of site people have a strong affinity for. As a search engine, or a portal, it’s the type of site you choose out of familiarity, or by default. It’s the largest homepage of the post-homepage era. As a result, it doesn’t seriously overindex in any demographic. Perhaps its most enthusiastic users are old, but they’re few, too. The majority of its users are, if anything, apathetic. They’re just there.
Almost right. Yahoo has been making some interesting moves lately, and if wasn’t for the fact that it’s a legacy brand with a stupid name it might have more respect. But they have a history of buying popular sites and letting them expire from neglect, and the younger demo has seen them screw up some popular things. They’re aware of Yahoo, but not in a good way.
To Tumblr’s users, Yahoo doesn’t just represent an outside force or a threat of advertising. It represents adults, and everything that word connotes: order, boredom, not “getting it.”
Whereas Google connotes, well, some sort of benevolent omnipotent brain in the sky which is also devoted to “getting it,” “it” being every scrap of information about you it can hoover up, but that’s okay because they give you stuff and besides, it’s like, Google.
People wailed when Instagram was purchased, and vowed to stomp off somewhere else. Few did. Wordpress says70,000 posts were ported to WP since the announcement, but that’s really not too much. You leave Tumblr, you have to start all over again - I left Tumblr a few years ago for Posterous, which had some nifty features and boasted better stability at the time, but it was like moving your kiosk from the Mall of America to a stripmall.
To bring all those tumblr users into the Yahoo realm, I suppose - give them all accounts, let them tie their Tumblrs to Flickr for some reason, pipe Yahoo news feeds to their pages, peel them off from Google. Most of all to show the investors that they’re cool. How could they not be? They have Tumblr.
Well, good luck, and don’t screw it up.
Hint: a little Yahoo toolbar at the top of the page is “screwing it up.” Don’t. Or we're all off to MogaZik.
MISC A Briton goes to the United States and tells what he likes and doesn’t like. Do you care? I do. It’s a big country and you have to see a big newspaper reinforce the idea that we’re nothing buy fat people who can’t make tea. Some of the complaints are silly - the coins? Really, the coins. But:
America is far better than I ever expected, but at the same time I must return to the UK to continue my studies. As much as this country has been great to me, and it really has, the people are just fantastic, I must return to the UK, where no one talks on public transport and where we'll complain when it's too hot and moan when it's too cold, despite packing inappropriate clothing for both occasions. I can't wait, but at the same time I'm leaving a fan of our former colony.
Come back, lad; you’ll only find more to love. One of the comments makes a good point, but fails to stick the landing:
That said, the problem with the US is that is has everything that any tourist could possibly want, from landscape and coast to temperatures. From deserts to tundra, from mountains to flatlands - its all there. And the people? The average american is as nice as you can find anywhere. So why go anywhere else?
And that IS the problem - only a third of Americans even have a passport (and less than 15% have left the continent) because there is everything to be found there: except the mix of opinions and ideas that come from meeting other cultures.
As opposed to millions of Britons who make a point of going to Senegal or Thailand every year, and going in-country to find a village where his own cultural preconceptions can be upended? Europe has different cultures, but aside from petty little details like “language” and “food” the countries are liberal democracies with shared Western traditions. Someone from Monaco won’t stand on a street corner in Finland shaking with disorientation because everything’s so different.
I don’t say this to diminish the lessons of travel, but to underscore the first point: you can get a great deal of cultural diversity in this country. Also, this: tell a Parisian he should get out of town more so he could be exposed to more opinions and ideas, and you’ll probably be informed that if the opinions and ideas were worth anything, he would have heard them in Paris.
VIDEO The original version of this song is a mocking up-yours to every pretentious musician who ever gave an self-serving interview to a sycophantic reporter; it’s delivered with a self-important deadpan monotone over a rather ordinary track. A minor work. I looked on YouTube to see if there was an official video.
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