How To Monetize Tumblr?

Image representing Tumblr as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase
David Karp is a New Yorker I hope to meet in person at some point, I am sure we will. We know too many people between us, the biggest being Fred Wilson himself. Wilson relishes Karp the way a VC ought to relish an entrepreneur.

A few months back - and if it has been less than that sorry, I have been on internet time, time moves faster online - when Tumblr raised its newest round of money, there was some talk from various quarters on the topic. I meant to read up on those thoughts and share my own thoughts in a blog post, and I just never got around to, I am doing now. But I have not had the chance to read those thoughts. That probably is a good thing for this blog post.

Google could not have done what Yahoo was doing really well: banner ads. Google came up with its own ad platform that spoke to the Google Search experience, and Google hit the jackpot with it. Similarly Facebook could not have done what Google did. (Facebook's Ad Space Is Different) Ads on Facebook needed to be able to climb the maze of people's social graphs. Social gaming needed a newer ad platform.

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Look at how Twitter is rolling out its monetization efforts. They have introduced the concept of resonance.

The lesson from all these examples is that the monetization of Tumblr has to be unique to the Tumblr experience. And the Tumblr experience is different from the Twitter experience, it is different from the Facebook experience, it is different from the Wordpress/Blogger experience.

So what exactly is the Tumblr experience. Define. Then monetize.

An obvious thing would be to allow businesses to set up tumblogs: paid Tumblr accounts. They can run campaigns on their own outside of Tumblr to get people to show up on their tumblogs and to follow them on their own. It would be like people doling out their Twitter handles on non Twitter platforms. But if people are spending money on the Google platform to get people to their tumblogs, that is money that should have been Tumblr's. So.

You should be able to create a paid account for your business on Tumblr. And Tumblr should landgrab a small box on the top right of all tumblogs. Paid accounts would have the option to get their specific tumblogs or Tumblr posts listed there for money.

So I just put out a post about smartphones at my tumblog, maybe I will see an ad for smartphones.

And for a higher price tumblog posts that are clearly labeled Sponsored should be allowed to enter streams. This could get controversial. But there is the Twitter option where you only enter the steam when people actively search for certain terms.

Just like an ad on Twitter has to take the form of a tweet, an ad on Tumblr has to look like a tumblog post. And those posts have to compete. If you are not getting clicked upon, you are not being liked and reblogged, you lose your place in the stream, money could not get you back in. What's that word again? Resonance?

Advertising on Tumblr has to be in tune with the Tumblr experience.

Another way - perhaps a better way - would be to get the users of Tumblr to strive to earn badges and have each such badge sponsored by a major brand name. So if you can get 100 people to follow you on Tumblr, you earn the T100 badge sponsored by Ben & Jerry. Both the badge and the sponsor's logo get shown on your tumblog. The logo links to the sponsor's tumblog.

A third way would be to allow Tumblr users to buy virtual money at Tumblr with which they can buy each other gifts. You pay real money for fake money with which you buy gifts. Tumblr is the one you pay. Tumblr makes money. Get it?

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Chris said…
Interesting ideas on the Tumblr experience. I love Tumblr's sense of community and the ability to reblog. Finding a way to carry this on is crucial to the experience.