This new feature on Tumblr allows the growing social network to use its Radar and Spotlight features on its Dashboard to draw attention to advertisers — or “sponsors,” as Tumblr calls them. Tumblr Radar gets more than 120 million daily impressions, which Tumblr says will offer sponsors “the opportunity to gain thousands of new followers, likes and reflags.” Meanwhile, sponsors also have the opportunity to be featured “front-and-center” on Tumblr Spotlight. The Spotlight feature, curated by a team of editors, is a sample of some of the more especially creative blogs on Tumblr and is a driver of “tens of millions of follows each week for new and existing users.”
Tumblr CEO David Karp announced that sponsored posts would be coming to Tumblr at the Ad Age Digital Conference, which took place in New York earlier this month. Though Karp had vehemently been against advertising in the past — he told the Los Angeles Times in 2010, “We’re pretty against advertising. It really turns our stomachs” — he later called himself an “idiot” for making that comment.
The implementation of these sponsored posts comes at the heels of the departure of Tumblr President John Maloney, who resigned this past weekend. According to the Wall Street Journal, “people familiar with the situation” said that Maloney’s skills as a generalist manager were becoming less relevant to Tumblr as it added executives in finance, engineering and human resources — in other words, as it grows beyond its start-up roots.
“I am a good operator,” Maloney said. “Am I one of those big network operators? That is not particularly interesting to me nor does it play to my strengths.”
After explosive growth in 2011, Tumblr hit 20 billion total posts at the end of March. At the announcement of the ads in mid-April, it had reached 21.3 billion total posts. Now — just two weeks later — it has added nearly a billion more total posts, according to its About page, which keeps a running list of statistics on the site.
Tumblr currently lacks an ad sales force, but Derek Gottfrid, the company’s vice president of product who currently oversees revenue, said in the Wall Street Journal article that the company plans to build a small ad sales team. “You should expect a slow build,” he said.
And even though Tumblr doesn’t like to call its ads “ads,” the company does acknowledge that advertising is the game it’s playing:
“We’re looking for the world’s greatest marketers and media companies to help us raise the bar for creative advertising on the web,” Tumblr states in its Sponsors page. “If you’re game, we’d love to talk!”
Do you think the addition of sponsored posts to Tumblr Spotlight distorts viewers’ understanding of what’s creative on Tumblr? Can Tumblr maintain its commitment as a “platform for self-expression” with these ads? Sound off in the comments.
Image courtesy of Jessica Checkeroski