Automattic’s bargain-bin Tumblr deal plugs right into the WordPress business model

Tumblr has been an millstone around the neck of its owners, first Yahoo and later Oath and Verizon Media, pretty much since it was acquired in 2013. They never found an answer to the question that new owner Automattic is presumably about to take a crack at: how to make this unruly erstwhile porn factory turn a profit.
Amazingly, the secret technique that Tumblr may have been waiting for was good old-fashioned business sense: make something people want, then charge them a good price for it. Tumblr may fit into the WordPress model and do just this — quite a change from the indirect monetization attempts of the past decade.
The Yahoo acquisition under the stewardship of Marissa Mayer seems to have been made with the assumption, naive in retrospect but incredibly common in that era, that you could buy an audience, plunk some ads in the product, then sit back and let the money roll in.
But beyond doing that, Yahoo never really did anything with Tumblr apart from adding a few features and expanding ads. And for a while growth was good and the network flourished, even rivaling Instagram on some metrics.

But over time Tumblr, and “microblogging” in general, declined as more focused social experiences like Instagram took over, and it prospered in other, less savory ways. Porn grew to become a huge proportion of the content of the site, a large majority by some estimates — but to guess at the amount of porn on Tumblr is like trying to count the waves in the ocean.
After a run-in with Apple last year over allegations of child porn on the platform and its subsequent removal from the App Store, management somewhere in or above Tumblr — founder David Karp had long since left — decided at the end of 2018 to kill off all porn on the platform. The resulting exodus of users, and generally speaking the removal of the internet’s most popular form of content, must have practically decimated the site’s numbers. I don’t think it ever made a dime, but now it was losing money and users.

Why Oath keeps Tumblring
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