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Do you Tumblr!?

June 6, 2013

On May 20th, Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer announced on her newly-created personal and company Tumblr accounts that Yahoo had acquired the blogging platform. In a lengthy blog post sporting an animated gif using the “keep calm and carry on” meme, she made the promise to Tumblr users “not to screw it up”.

It is too early to determine if she kept her promise, but we thought it would be interesting to mine eCairn’s database of Tumblr users for some insights on the acquisition. Last year, we compiled a custom list of bloggers to deliver a study for a fast food company on one of their target demographics: high school students. This list of younger bloggers (some of which have become college students) is all the more relevant to Yahoo as a vast majority are Tumblr users.

Let’s focus on the following questions:
1. The deal announcement highlights the high activity level of Tumblr users: 900 posts per second over the whole network, and 120,000 sign ups every day. How do these numbers translate in our tribe of high school and college students using Tumblr?
2. Between May 20 and June 1, Yahoo was mentioned in two different contexts in our tribe: marginally as a source for content (13%), and mostly as the acquirer of Tumblr (87%). What is the sentiment expressed about Yahoo in general and about the acquisition in particular?

1. Activity level and death rate

The level of activity found in our tribe is very high, with bloggers posting an average of 7 posts daily:

# bloggers # posts # posts/user # posts/user/day
750 over 1 million 1350 more than 7

 

When we created the tribe 6 months ago, the tribe was over 1600 Tumblr users strong. As of today, however, more than 50% of these blogs have either become inactive or disappeared altogether. These numbers show that the death rate of Tumblr accounts is rather high, much higher than the blogs from any of the tribes we looked at in this post.

2. Sentiment about Yahoo as a source for content

Yahoo as a source for content does not generate much opinionated talk: sentiment is mostly neutral (65%). The negative mentions (30%) are due to reblogging of the following post:

so yahoo reports that michelle obama wore the same dress three times. congratulations, you have now confirmed that the white house indeed has washing machines

3. Sentiment about the Yahoo/Tumblr deal

Sentiment on the Yahoo/Tumblr deal among high schoolers and college students is largely negative (68%), with only 10% of positive mentions.

Negative posts use strong language, strong imagery, and a lot of cynicism and self-deprecation. In a tribe where reblogging is the norm, posts are quick to become memes. Three types of negative posts stand out:

  • Tumblr is trash and Yahoo made a mistake buying it: among the posts in this category, the conversation involving Tumblr users selfdoubtandsyphilis and dankestrnemes (which have both disappeared since) is widely relayed throughout the tribe:

    dankestrnemes: do animals think in english or in the sounds they make
    selfdoubtandsyphilis: this is what yahoo paid $1.1 billion for

  • Yahoo is going to change Tumblr and take away everything that we like about it: a lot of posts spread rumors of blog deletions and rules about post and picture publishing.
  • A lot of Tumblr users’ conversations do not give specific reasons why they do not welcome the deal. However, the strong, apocalytic tone in which they are written is well worth noting. In the following example (reblogged from here), Yahoo is equated with the followers of Lord Voldemort, the arch-villain in the Harry Potter books:

    tumblr has fallen
    david karp is dead
    yahoo is coming

The conversations where positive sentiment is expressed were mostly published on May 20, either as a reaction to the announcement or to negative comments about it. Two trends are visible: one in which Yahoo is said to have saved Tumblr, the other expressing requests for enhancements. The latter may be the most important for Yahoo to leverage, like in this post:

plot twist: yahoo buys tumblr and we get proper blocking features, lockable posts, a sent folder in messages/fanmail with a better interface, ability to search multiple tags, removal of the post and message limits, proper search engines for likes/archives and removing that bloody “reblog as a link” option.

Sentiment was rated as neutral in conversations where no strong opinion is expressed, or where positive and negative comments are expressed with approximately equal weight. Here again, enhancements are suggested, like fixing the video player.

Conclusion
Limited in its scope, this quick study shows that the Tumblr community is indeed vibrant, but also fleeting, with a high level of activity and a high death rate.

The Yahoo brand name did not generate much talk until the acquisition, when general sentiment became overly negative. Negative, positive or neutral, these conversations carry valuable insights for the buyer. Will Yahoo listen to the Tumblr users? Will the negative buzz die down? What do you think about the Yahoo/Tumblr deal?

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