Yahoo! Tumblring the Line Between Advertising and Social Media

Ah, the halcyon days of Yahoo!: Poster child of the dot-com bubble, search engine of choice throughout the 90s. (Take that, Dogpile!) A lot has changed in the past decade-or-so, with Google eventually playing the infallible Gallant to Yahoo!’s bumbling Goofus. These personae have largely defined the two companies, as Google makes consistently progressive business blockbusters and Yahoo! throws money at blossoming companies only to let them wither.

Yahoo!’s wasteland portfolio may finally see some new growth, however, with the swift (and costly) acquisition of burgeoning blogging behemoth Tumblr. And, after forking over $1.1 billion, Yahoo! hopes that Tumblr can deliver the media attention the search engine has lacked since its heyday.

As social media stalwarts go, it’s hard to imagine a more ideal company than Tumblr. With a svelte core of hungry, start-up-minded employees numbering just 175, Tumblr brings a fighter’s mentality to Yahoo!’s expansive list of acquisitions. Thanks to 26-year-old CEO and a co-founder David Karp agreeing to stay on post-buyout, Yahoo! could at least partially reverse their public image with some fresh-faced talent.

Accordingly, Yahoo! would have a built-in connection to the typical Tumblr user: young, tech-savvy and current. Especially if Yahoo! retains Tumblr’s other in-house talent, the search engine could tap into one of the top-spending demographics, yielding them obvious benefits. And Tumblr could definitely provide the numbers that would make any advertiser salivate, boasting 108.2 million blogs, 50.8 billion total posts and 13 billion world-wide page views. That type of user interaction and viewer engagement doesn’t come along every day.

Which raises the central question: what plans, exactly, does Yahoo! have to change Tumblr? For Yahoo!, this is a delicate issue. If they use a hands off approach and Tumblr founders, they’ll be blamed for not nurturing a young site; conversely, if they put too much development into the already robust site, they’ll be accused of strangling it before it fully develops.

Obviously, some changes have to take place for this move to make any sense from Yahoo!’s perspective. Anyone with a computer could easily see, however, that Tumblr has a more impressive track record than Yahoo! The answer, then, would seem to be minimally invasive changes to improve monetization while allowing Tumblr’s talented team to maintain creative authority over the website. Basically, the young hot shots bring the sleek interface to keep users engaged, while the ad vets bring the market research and pie charts to direct the best traffic to relevant companies. Seems like a match made in heaven.

Again, though, this will need to be done with a light and sophisticated touch, lest Tumblr’s users feel betrayed by the free service. And, while Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer says that they “won’t screw it up,” only time will tell.

So, what do you think Tumblr’s new interface will look like? Could it be the boon that Yahoo!’s needed for a while? Let us know what you think below!

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