News Column

Tumblr May Be a Stumblr for Yahoo

May 20, 2013

Tumblr, we hardly knew ye. The microblogging platform, with its coveted younger demographic, is on the market and the expected buyer, Yahoo, almost certainly would burden the site with a layer of bureaucracy that will drive away many of its 100 million bloggers.

Blindly stumbling to reinvent itself, Yahoo is reportedly willing to spend $1.1 billion for Tumblr for one big reason: It would provide an instant supply of the youthful audience that the search engine desperately needs and woefully lacks.

Yahoo's board approved the buy yesterday according to the Wall Street Journal. But the problem with the email giant owning Tumblr is twofold: Yahoo has no identity and it has demonstrated no ability to find one.

Thus, Yahoo has become a jack of too many trades and a master of none. In everything -- from a logo reminiscent of the AOL era to the set of bizarre acquisitions made in the past year -- Yahoo has shown it still operates with inertia and incompetence despite wooing new CEO Marissa Mayer from Google.

Yahoo's track record for handling user-generated content is atrocious.

It purchased Flickr in 2005 when the photo-sharing site was at the forefront of the social media revolution. But Yahoo's reign has meant unwanted censorship, embarrassing tech hiccups, a lack of innovation -- and worst of all, a fundamental failure to recognize that Flickr's greatest asset was in its early establishment of social networks.

A decade ago, Flickr was already identifying relationships among its users, allowing them to tag family members and friends.

Yahoo could have used this asset to be at the forefront of the Facebook revolution.

Instead, it continues to fail to leverage the communities, geotagged images and other virtues of the Flickr property.

Yahoo is holding a product reveal today in New York that may involve a reinvention of the photo-sharing site.

It's probably too late in the game for that.

Tumblr is a creative canvas. Anything goes, whether it's image upon image of smut or political satire or just a bunch of silly gifs.

It's hard to imagine the same demographic sticking around when presented with a bunch of legacy features like Yahoo mail.

Tumblr and its founder David Karp need a buyer with a shared vision, not one that just wants to ride its coattails to the next earnings call.

Unfortunately, with an expected $1.1 billion price tag, that buyer will be all corporation and no Lady Gaga -- who, by the way, would have been a match made in heaven for the site.


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Source: Copyright Boston Herald (MA) 2013