Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg Details Tumblr’s Future

This week, owner Matt Mullenweg confirmed his company would be shifting the majority of Tumblr’s workforce to other areas at the parent company Automattic in light of the social blogging site’s continued financial woes, TechCrunch reported.

After acknowledging and explaining the meaning behind a leaked internal memo detailing staff changes, Mullenweg then went on to field a number of questions about Tumblr’s future as an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on his own Tumblr blog. Here, the exec responded to questions about Tumblr’s plans for existing products like, Tumblr Live, its monetization efforts, policies and its planned integration with the decentralized social networking protocol ActivityPub, which Mullenweg had earlier said was in the works.

What are Tumblr’s monetization plans?

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

However, TechCrunch reported, out of Tumblr’s 11.5 million active users, only 27,000 are subscribers (0.2%). If 10-20% subscribed, Tumblr would be in good shape, Mullenweg noted. Then, “we could run the site forever,” he shared.

What’s more, he said the Tumblr Supporter badge hasn’t been very successful on its own, with only 2,300 total subscribers to that product.

ArsTechnica reported that Tumblr will lose a majority of its product-minded staff by the end of this year, according to the CEO of the company that owns it. But, despite a recently leaked memo quoting Tennyson’s “better to have loved and lost” line, the CEO believes they are “setting up Tumblr for success in this next chapter.”

The memo states that a majority of the 139 employees on product and marketing at Tumblr (in a team apparently named “Bumblr”) will “switch to other divisions.” Those working in “Happiness” (Automattic’s customer support and service division) and “T&S” (trust and safety) would remain.

“We are at the point where after 600+ person-years of effort put into Tumblr since the acquisition in 2019, we have not gotten the expected results from our effort, which was to have revenue and usage above its previous peaks,” the posted memo reads. After quotes and anecdotes about love, loss, and mountain climbing, and learning on the journey, the memo notes that nobody will be let go and that team members can make a ranked list of their top three preferred assignments elsewhere inside Automattic.

PCMag reported that Tumblr is in trouble. Recent efforts to turn things around at the blogging site have fallen flat, which will result in a 2024 re-org.

“What’s super clear is our previous approach wasn’t working,” Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Tumblr owner Automattic, said in a recent post. “It didn’t turn around the business to make enough money to support the investment of infrastructure and staff needed to run Tumblr, and a lot of users were unhappy with some of the changes we tried.”

In my opinion, there would be a lot of people who currently use Tumblr that would be sad if the site disappears due to lack of revenue. Tumblr has changed hands over the years, and it would be a shame if the site just poofs out of existence.

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