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The Truth About Tumblr: Its Numbers Are Significantly Worse Than You Think

marissa mayer david karp tumblr yahoo

Now that that the Yahoo-Tumblr acquisition is a done deal, we’re starting to see reports that make Tumblr look like a much less impressive property.

In the press release announcing the deal, Yahoo said Tumblr has 300 million monthly unique visitors. This is an eye-popping number, which is why Yahoo put it in the release.

However, Peter Kafka at All Things D notes that it’s slightly misleading.

Tumblr is being positioned as a social network, like Twitter and Facebook. Its business model will follow their business models with advertisements inserted between posts people see in the “dashboard.”

The dashboard is how Tumblr users really use the service. It’s a backend system that lets posts flow in a timeline-style system like Facebook’s News Feed.

Therefore, monthly unique visitors isn’t a relevant metric. The relevant metric is monthly active users, which is what Facebook and Twitter talk about.

Tumblr has not revealed how many monthly active users it has, but Kafka says a source familiar with the company tells him that it probably has 30-50 million active users.

That’s a significant drop from the 300 million monthly uniques.

Yahoo said it would like to start sticking ads on front-facing Tumblr pages, but it would only do so with permission from the user. That means that only a percentage of those 300 million users could end up seeing ads.

This isn’t the only report that tosses some cold water on Tumblr’s business.

Nitasha Tiku at Valleywag reports Tumblr’s revenue last year was less than $5 million. We’ve confirmed this number with our own source.

This is quite shocking since everyone was citing a Forbes report that said Tumblr did $13 million in revenue last year.

That same report said Tumblr hoped to be at $100 million in revenue this year. That number too was widely cited during the reports on Tumblr-Yahoo deal.

But we heard that Tumblr was behind schedule in the first quarter of this year with revenue. There is gossip that revenue could be only $15 million at Tumblr this year, which sounds way too low to us.

We don’t know what Tumblr’s revenue will really be, but it’s likely it won’t hit that $100 million goal.

So what does all of this mean?

The revenue piece isn’t that big of a deal. Yahoo didn’t buy Tumblr for revenue. And Tumblr did a poor job of inserting advertising. Yahoo should be able to fix the revenue piece relatively easily by forcing more ads into the dashboard.

However, the reason Yahoo bought Tumblr was for its young audience. If that addressable audience is really only 30-50 million monthly active users, then that’s a problem.

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