Tumblr, which has been described as a publishing tool that's somewhere between Twitter/Facebook and a full-fledged blog, is a fast-rising star in the crowded world of social media. It recently passed the one billion post mark, and it counts some pretty prominent publishers, including The Economist and Newsweek, as users.

The latest recognizable name in publishing to jump on the Tumblr bandwagon is The Atlantic. It doesn't know what to expect from its Tumblr experiment, but it's getting involved with Tumblr nonetheless.

Why has Tumblr become of interest to large publishers? It certainly isn't the revenue; there's little to none of that. And it isn't exactly Tumblr's mainstream popularity. While Tumblr's popularity is growing rapidly, it's not exactly what one would probably refer to as a 'mainstream' service, at least not yet.

So what is it? Tumblr is, as Megan Garber of the Nieman Journalism Lab, puts it, "whimsy." Which is probably one of the reasons why The Atlantic's deputy online editor, J.J. Gould, says that Tumblr "looks like a lot of fun." With that in mind, Gould indicates that The Atlantic will avoid trying to think too strategically when it comes to its new Tumblr presence, at least initially. It's going to try to be savvy, but not "over-thought."

Pragmatically-speaking, that might not be such a bad move. While strategy is important, strategy often carries with it something else: expectation. Brands experimenting with new platforms should always be thoughtful, but too many expectations can also be harmful.

New platforms often function in ways that are foreign to brands, and expectations can easily create limitations. Keeping an open mind and seeing what happens gives brands the ability to learn and spot new opportunities.

Perhaps publishers will discover that a platform like Tumblr can make a meaningful contribution to the brand and business, even if it doesn't make a huge contribution to the bottom line. Perhaps the mere act of experimenting with Tumblr will offer some benefit. After all, many publishers are in a precarious situation andwill have to experiment if they want to survive. But this doesn't necessarily mean that publishers should invest in presence on every emerging platform.

As my colleague Matt Owen has pointed out, time management is important. Publishers can't be everywhere, and once a presence has been established on a new platform, it can be difficult to close down shop, particularly when the platform is driving exposure but not revenue. If Newsweek's Tumblr experience is any indication, publishers may want to consider that.

Patricio Robles

Published 1 September, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2642 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (4)


Mike McGrail, Digital Marketing Consultant at Standard Life

At the moment I am struggling to see why I would use it. Like you say, there are enough outlets to manage at the best of times. People are adopting it in their droves which can only be positive. If you are starting out in the blog space then it is def worth a look, as is Posterous.

almost 8 years ago

Ciaran Norris

Ciaran Norris, Chief Digital Officer at Mindshare

I think the point you make about time management is the key here. Tumblr, just like blogging, is just a publishing platform and so there can be no right or wrong way of using it. If publishers can afford a skunkworks style model, and allow a few people to test & play, then they may find a way that makes sense for them.

almost 8 years ago



in my view tumblr is too complicated platform.

the difference between publishing/reading and me/community is really hard to catch: too smart maybe.

almost 8 years ago

Tom Howlett

Tom Howlett, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

I think it's great for posting small snippets of information you want to share with the world. I see many people just posting photos/images of inspiration and things they admire or enjoy. Why a company would choose that over any other platform, I don't know. It could possibly be used as the platform of choice for a specific campaign led by a company. I think it is around to stay though.

almost 8 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.