The old adage is that a question in the title of an article can usually be answered with “no”, right?
Here’s Rob Walker in an in-depth article for the New York Times on Tumblr’s founder and CEO, David Karp’s strategy to start making money:
This strategy means a brand must use Tumblr and use it well — which, actually, lots of brands already do, free. In fact, Tumblr helped many of them do so — again, free — during the years it was more concerned with boosting its audience than with making money. Karp argues that this is a strength: “A lot of these brands showed up on Tumblr, figured out how to use the tools, created value for our community and got a response.” Now they have the option to “elevate” what they’ve created within Tumblr, by way of a sponsorship.
Everything about this idea seems to be akin to what Facebook is doing to business pages: charging business page owners a few bucks in order to show new updates to all of that pages fans. Guess what, that’s not going over so well with users.
This is a tough issue, the same issue that I faced with changing the business model of this site. When you take away something that was previously free people get mad, and they get mad because you previously made them feel they were entitled to what you gave them for free.
The difference between this site and Tumblr? I don’t have to answer to VCs that want to be repaid. Tumblr would be smart to just start charging for their service (at the very least to brands), but hey I don’t like ads so what do I know?
Update: There is a great post from Derek Powazek about this very thing where he asks:
What if we designed a social network to be small, self-supporting, and independent from the outset?
His entire post is worth a read, as he talks about what does and doesn’t work and what has worked for MetaFilter.