Tumblr now sells ad space: Will users freak out?

Tumblr ads

We all knew it was coming. But the day is finally here: Tumblr now sells ad space. Or, as the company calls it, “sponsor products.” The blogging platform announced today that it will offer advertising on its curated Tumblr Spotlight page, or on Tumblr Radar, a sidebar box that appears on the user dashboard. Ads will not appear on individual blogs.

Tumblr currently features non-paid posts on both Spotlight and Radar. Sponsor posts in those spaces will include a fancy “$” next to them, so users know that they are looking at/clicking ads. Tumblr tells Business Insider that ad buys will start at $25,000 a pop, and go up from there. As BI points out, this is a significantly higher entry point than advertisers will find on Twitter, which charges a minimum of $15,000 for ads on its platform.

According to Tumblr, its Spotlight page “dives tens of millions of follows each week.” And Tumblr Radar sees “more than 120 million impressions” each day. Not bad.

At this point, there are two big questions around this move: Will advertisers buy? And how will Tumblr users react? Given the massive popularity of Tumblr — it has around 54 million users, according to Quantcast — it seems likely that they will have some takers, which is essential because Tumblr currently isn’t making much money by selling premium blog themes.

In terms of the second question — how will users react — it’s hard to say. I have been using ad-free Tumblr for years, and the thought of seeing an ad in the Tumblr Radar spot doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Then again, people have a way of getting worked up about such things, so I expect at least a minor backlash.

Tumblr seems all too aware of the potential for a user revolt. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2010, Tumblr CEO David Karp said that the thought of selling ads “turns our stomachs.” And just last month, Karp told AdAge that “we’re selling our desks to avoid” selling advertising. Apparently they didn’t have enough desks.

Regardless, the fact remains that Tumblr needs to make money to survive. And the way they are going about advertising so far — making it as visible but unobtrusive to users as possible — appears to me the least offensive way they could go about the switch. As a big fan of Tumblr, I hope the gamble pays off.

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