Tumblr Begins Selling Bloggers Service to Promote Their Posts


Photograph by Jennifer S. Altman/Bloomberg

David Karp, co-founder of Tumblr, speaks at a TechCrunch conference in New York last month.

Tumblr, the social-networking website that had long eschewed advertising, has started letting users pay to promote their blog posts, the New York-based company said.

The service puts paid blog posts at the top of Tumblr home pages of users who are already following those blogs, Vice President Derek Gottfrid said in an interview. Each promoted post, which costs $5 for now, stays at the top of a user’s dashboard for 24 hours or until the user clicks a button to dismiss it, he said.

“We expect that price to fluctuate a bit,” Gottfrid said. “It’s a beta product.”

Tumblr, a five-year-old startup that hosts 61.8 million blogs, has been experimenting more in the past couple of months with advertising and promotional services in order to find revenue outside of selling Web-design services from third parties. Last month, the closely held company began running campaigns from national advertisers, including Viacom’s MTV and News Corp.’s Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Those ads, which can appear on the side of users’ dashboards when they load the page and are also displayed in a blog directory, have already generated at least $150,000, according to Gottfrid. He said Tumblr has “many more” advertisers lined up to participate, but declined to say how many or name them.

Advertisers are only allowed to link to pages that appear on their own Tumblr blogs. Those posts could include messages, photos, links or videos.

“It’s going fantastically well,” Gottfrid said. “Our goal there is to sell an entire Tumblr experience to advertisers. You get followers; you get impressions; you get awareness.”

David Karp, Tumblr’s 25-year-old co-founder and chief executive officer, had aired his distaste for online ads in 2010. In an interview this week, he said digital advertising is still “kind of crappy.”

“It’s certainly not the kind of advertising that advertisers get excited about and people get excited about,” he said.

Tumblr executives expect the promoted posts will become a significant business. It’s not the company’s first foray into this type of service. The site currently lets bloggers pay for digital stickers that are designed to make their posts stand out. Tumblr also had previously offered paid listings in a directory. That service needed to be retooled, even though it comprised much of the company’s revenue at the time, Karp said.

“We tried a bunch of things over the years,” he said.

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