Stickin' it to the man since 1927.
Corporate logos have no place among my gifsets
By Jeremy Levine
In an announcement that disappointed many-a-hipster, Tumblr is going to start using advertisements as early as May 2nd. This disheartening news came from Tumblr founder David Karp(a common source of disheartening news) on April 19th.
For the uninitiated (what have you all been doing with your lives?), Tumblr is a microblogging platform that allows users to track their interests and share text, audio, photos, and videos for free. Users can save posts that they like, and place posts that they see (along with their original content) on their own blogs. In short, it’s a magical land full of your favorite stuff.
While many people use Tumblr strictly for the lulz, it remains a sacred space. Tumblr is not Facebook, it is not Twitter. Most often, it is disconnected from these places, and allows people to explore interesting content unimpeded by the “real world.” Many Tumblr users resist following blogs run by people they know personally for this reason. It is a place to explore culture and interact with interesting people outside of one’s normal sphere.
It is then easy to believe that many Tumblr users are growing upset over the inclusion of advertisements. Ads are annoying anywhere. Nobody likes commercials on TV, and even little banners on websites can be frustrating. But the situation is even more upsetting on Tumblr because the site has become a way to disconnect from the real world. Tumblr is a huge part of an internet counterculture, and seeing corporate ads there is borderline offensive. In fact, in April 2010, Karp said that “advertising… really turns [his] stomach.”
It is almost understandable, though. Everyone needs to make money, and this would give advertisers the views that they want, especially from an audience that tends to resist the mainstream. Right now, Tumblr earns its revenue solely from blogs paying to be featured and from individuals purchasing blog themes (basically a really fancy layout for your blog).
Most Tumblr users choose to not use these features (why pay to enhance something that’s free?), and so Tumblr needs a way to get a solid stream of revenue.
So where are these ads going? Karp stated that they are probably going to be located in the Tumblr Radar area, which is a little box on the side of the Dashboard (the site’s main page). Tumblr Radar is used to feature an interesting item (usually a photograph) from a Tumblr user, in order to attract attention to this user’s content. Running advertisements in this space would then decrease the amount of featured users, and so many talented bloggers will not get the attention that they could be receiving.
There is hope. Any Tumblr user will tell you that the idea of the platform is brilliant and wonderful, but the website istelf is actually atrocious.
The search bar doesn’t work, the servers are absurdly slow, and an illegal browser hack (that many users have downloaded) is required to access certain features as simple as replying to comments.
Maybe, with the riches and fortune that Tumblr finds for themselves in the advertising business, they will be able to fix some of these issues and make their website work like a website with 50 million blogs should work. The only circumstance in which I would find advertisements acceptable on this website would be if they hired someone who actually knew how to design and run a website.
But in the end, there isn’t much that we .gif-reblogging fangirling nerds can do. We’re all going to keep using Tumblr anyway. Many users would probably stop breathing if they shut down their blogs. So maybe we’ll have a more pleasant experience overall, and maybe we won’t.
Tumblr is going to make a change that, in theory, is antithetical to the heart and soul of the website, but in fact might make it more useable.