Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg details Tumblr’s future after re-org

This week, WordPress.com owner Matt Mullenweg confirmed that his company will be moving most of its Tumblr workforce to other locations in parent company Automattic in light of the social blogging site’s continued financial difficulties. After identifying and explaining the meaning behind a leaked internal memo detailing staff changes, Mullenweg went on to ask a number of questions about the future of Tumblr in a session on AMA (Ask Me Anything) at his own Tumblr blog. Here, the exec answers questions about Tumblr’s plans for existing products, such as Tumblr Live, its monetization efforts, policies, and its planned integration with the decentralized social networking protocol. which is ActivityPub, which Mullenweg says is in the works.

TechCrunch’s Amanda Silberling broke the news of the Tumblr re-org, announcing that 139 of the site’s workers will be transferred to other projects at automaticallythe parent company of not only Tumblr and WordPress.com, but also WP VIP, Day One, Pocket Casts, WooCommerce, and other apps and services, including the recently acquired all-in-one texting app Texts.com.

But Mullenweg’s AMA offered a lot more insight into how the company plans to run Tumblr, the blogging site it acquired from Verizon for $3 million in 2019. Yahoo first bought it for over a billion dollars – the business itself was losing $30 million a year. That requires re-org.

Below are some of the key takeaways from Mullenweg’s exchange with Tumblr users during the AMA, which shed light on what lies ahead for Tumblr in 2024 and beyond.

When will staffing changes occur?

Mullenweg said that the changes in the Tumblr team will take place on December 31, 2023. He said that the team will be presented with other Automattic projects and will be able to rank their top three picks, because the staff is being reassigned. The team affected is known as “Bumblr” which is the internal product name of Tumblr.

The move is not a surprise, he added – the Tumblr team has known for more than a year that if it doesn’t get the revenue, some of them will have to work on other things that will make the company profitable.

Reassigned Tumblr staff can choose from the following: WP.com, WooCommerce, Jetpack, Day One, Pocket Casts, WP VIP, .Org, Applied AI, Texts, self-serve advertising (Blaze), Newspack, Pressable , and Gravatar.

Why are some people fired without being reassigned?

Mullenweg admits the company, like many, engages in performance management reviews and sometimes that means people are let go.

“Automattic is constantly hiring and firing people to try to build the best open web tech team in the world,” he wrote.

In other words, some people the was removed but not due to Tumblr’s financial difficulties.

Will Tumblr’s localization plans be affected by staff changes?

Mullenweg confirmed that translation and localization will continue, and will not be affected by the changes.

What does success look like on Tumblr?

The WordPress exec said that a successful version of Tumblr will see it become a place where “everyone goes to hang out online” with “billions of micro-communities.” He did not share specifics, such as how much money is needed, however.

What are Tumblr’s monetization plans?

Tumblr now offers a subscription that is currently the best way to support the site, Mullenweg said. Users can choose from either of the Tumblr Supporter badge for $29.99/year or $2.99/month or subscribe to the same priced ad-free offer. Subscribing on the web instead of in-app allows Tumblr to keep more revenue because it doesn’t have to pay app store commissions.

However, out of Tumblr’s 11.5 million monthly active users, only 27,000 are subscribers (0.2%). If 10-20% subscribe, Tumblr is doing well, says Mullenweg. Then, “we can run the site forever,” he shared.

In addition, he said that the Tumblr Supporter badge was not very successful on its own, with 2,300 total subscribers to the product.

In response to another question, Mullenweg suggested that Tumblr users can provide subscriptions, ask people to subscribe, and support advertisers and brands that support Tumblr.

He also mentioned, some changes ahead for TumblrMart. While virtual items and subscriptions will continue, Tumblr will likely have to “scale back physical items” because it’s only profitable on a small scale. (And the person who runs it no longer wants to, Mullenweg said.)

In other responses, Mullenweg appeared to be thinking about how to support Tumblr through ads in different ways.

What is the future of advertising on Tumblr?

Mullenweg said the majority of Tumblr’s ad revenue comes from programmatic ads, due to a number of factors, including declining site traffic and various attacks on brands running ads from the user base. on Tumblr. He added that self-serve ads with Blaze are “fixed” and that tool will be available again on Tumblr, WooCommerce, and WordPress.

However, he noted that the adoption of Blaze and Ad-free was so low that they could not support Tumblr’s 1,000 servers or the salaries of its employees.

The exec added that he is thinking about new ways to allow advertisers to more easily duplicate campaigns they run elsewhere with similar formats, which will increase the quality of Tumblr ads. . It can be aimed at brands that want to transfer some percentage of their ad budget from Twitter / X, for example.

Does Tumblr support migrating WordPress.com blogs?

Here, the exec is a bit vague on future plans, but says that Tumblr now has a full export option available and WordPress can import content. Still, actually moving Tumblr blogs to WordPress.com was a “terrible migration,” Mullenweg said, but explained that new technology like AI could make it easier.

How will the Tumblr product change in 2024?

Mullenweg admitted that the team was too spread out and spent too much effort on things that didn’t work. In 2024, the company will “fine tune” the parts of Tumblr that people love and end things that aren’t working.

He suggests that Tumblr will continue to change, as well, saying:

“We will continue (to) stay on the bleeding edge of what technology allows and allows, and hopefully put pressure on other social networks to step up their game, as they have with many of the features Tumblr invented and followed by others.”

Areas of interest he cites are images, which he says are easy, but notes that streaming high-res video should be paid for (but not expensive.) He also notes that Automattic has some technology in video that it can rely on. VideoPress.

In terms of lost opportunities, Mullenweg laments the demise of the Post + creator subscription, which would have directed all funds to creators without Tumblr’s cut. But misinformation about fan fic writers being sued by copyright holders led to a coordinated attack campaign that led to every creator launching the program to cancel, he said.

“This is unfortunate, because this is a feature that users and creators have said they want, and we prioritize making users money over projects that make us money,” Mullenweg wrote.

Is Tumblr Live shutting down?

The Tumblr Live executive explained – a part of livestreaming video that Tumblr users don’t like – can be a chopping block. He said that in 2024 Tumblr will “streamline some of the additional things that were launched (like Live) that didn’t get the adoption that we hoped for.”

In response to other questions, Mullenweg also said that Tumblr was “sunset or rolling back some things that we tried that didn’t work,” and even said directly that Live itself would be re-examined. in January 2024 if “it should be a part of the Tumblr app.”

How does Tumblr deal with trolls?

The troll’s question is a bit off topic about the future of Tumblr as a business, and instead speaks to the future of the site’s culture. Mullenweg said he believes “super trolls” account for less than 0.5% of Tumblr’s user base. Still, they can have a big impact, he admits.

Despite the personnel changes, the company plans to increase its investment in Trust & Safety – the team that deals with bots, trolling, attacks, and hate speech – and ban accounts that engage of these behaviors. It will also prevent trolls from registering new accounts and changing their behavior, he said.

What happened to the ActivityPub integration for Tumblr?

Mullenweg announced a year ago that Tumblr would add support for ActivityPub, the decentralized social networking protocol that supports apps like Twitter competitor Mastodon and others. But, apparently, that project has been put on the back burner. A Tumblr employee said it now an item on the “Tumblr Labs” list and checked.

At the AMA, Mullenweg vaguely cleared up the confusion over the project’s status by stating that:

“Every future for Tumblr that I’m involved in will involve it being more open, supporting more standards, APIs, and open source.”

Shouldn’t Tumblr ban pornography?

No. Art is allowedbut not “hardcore stuff,” Mullenweg said.

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