Tumblr will make Yahoo as cool as that Hot Topic shirt made you in 6th grade

Tumblr will make Yahoo as cool as that Hot Topic

Several sources have reported that Yahoo wants to buy Tumblr for $1 billion. That’s an awfully high number, but I can see why Tumblr would take a billion dollar buyout from Yahoo. First of all, that’s Beyonce money. And Tumblr is struggling to monetize, as its scramble for native mobile ads shows. Also … there is no second of all, because Yahoo is going to do absolutely nothing else for the long-term benefit of Tumblr. Now, one may argue that Yahoo doesn’t need to do anything else for Tumblr since they’d give them a whack of cash, and that the cool kid vibe of Tumblr would inarguably help the stodginess that continues to follow Yahoo around, even post Marissa Mayer hiring. But if you like using Tumblr, there are two scenarios that will arise from a Yahoo buyout, and neither of them look good. 

Scenario one: Yahoo destroys Tumblr and takes its tech

This is the worst-case scenario. Yahoo is a hot, hot mess, and even though recent changes have been savvy, it could infect Tumblr with its some of its former self to a point where Tumblr loses all its followers and falls into a Friendster-esque state of Internet ghost town disarray. Am I being unfair to Yahoo? Nah. Marissa Mayer is a bawse but the company is still troubled. Let’s review: what was one of the most recent things Yahoo bought? Ah yes – Summly. Yahoo paid a British teen $30 million for his app, which summarizes news articles, and then shut it down to incorporate the technology into its own services. Yahoo could go the Summly route with Tumblr and buy it out only to shut it down and merge it into the Yahoo Stew of Failure.

But it’s not very likely that Yahoo would risk alienating Tumblr’s userbase by completely getting rid of everything that makes it uniquely Tumblr-y, so a shut-down seems improbable. Summly is one thing and Tumblr is so, so another. So even though it’s not going to be good for Tumblr, Yahoo probably isn’t going to dismember and defile the service beyond the point of recognition. Which leads me to scenario #2…

Scenario two: Yahoo gradually makes Tumblr worse

This scenario is much more likely. Yahoo is making some major progress with Mayer behind the helm, with an attractive new mail app,  a snazzy homepage redesign, and plenty of interesting (but far more low-profile) acquisitions. It has a big problem though – it’s simply not cool. It’s the Miracle Whip of the Internet. Some old people use it because they don’t know any better, but it’s an antiquated, fuddy-duddy brand – and attempts at catching up with its competitors, like adding Dropbox to its mail service, are decent progress but still leave the company trailing behind. In a survey I just conducted featuring myself and my friend Zach, even Bing is cooler than Yahoo. That Outlook mail client is slick … 

Yahoo is a decrepit succubus that wants to leech off the coolness of Tumblr. But it’s not worth $1 billion to simply buy Tumblr, let it run exactly as it has been, and hope that the fact that Yahoo owns Tumblr will imbue it with some kind of street cred. No, Yahoo will almost certainly want to integrate Tumblr into its services, to encourage the coveted “hip” demographic to wander onto Yahoo content. Might I reference Flickr: The Internet’s beloved photo service has recently reclaimed its spot among the greats, but Yahoo did fumble that buy out for awhile and users were jumping ship and angry at the changes. 

Now, Tumblr is “looking for a liquidity event,” according to one of Adweek’s sources. They have their mind on their money and their money on their mind. Tumblr kills it on the user side of things but it’s been having problems monetizing and Yahoo could help it out on that end. But I have a feeling any major grab for monetization via Yahoo’s advertising team will seriously mess with the things that make Tumblr so great. It’s not a good situation because Tumblr’s investors and board want it to make more money, but making a deal with Yahoo is like making a deal with the world’s least-hip devil. Not Al Pacino in Devil’s Advocate. More like Adam Sandler in Little Nicky. The help from the advertising side will come at a price, and that price will be mucking up Tumblr’s user experience. 

Scenario three: What, a third scenario? Yep – and it involves Facebook and also, still the ruination of Tumblr 

Of course, this deal is far from inked. And now that the acquisition cat is out of the rumor bag, Yahoo might have some competition to win Tumblr’s soul. 

Facebook is trying to remain cool while simultaneously becoming ever-more obnoxious as an ad platform, so it may be interested in Tumblr as a way to bulk up its appeal for younger users, who increasingly choose other social mediums. And if the Instagram buyout is any indication, Zuckerberg doesn’t exactly shy away from quick-fire major purchases of “cool” platforms. GigaOM speculated that a Facebook last-minute sneaky buyout could happen, especially considering how Tumblr CEO David Karp likes to play nice with the social network. 

Facebook would probably be marginally less soul-sucking than Yahoo if it bought Tumblr, but emphasis on the marginally. Look, I get it: Companies need to make money. But when it comes to social media, you have to straddle a really fine line between finding ways to profit and keeping your service an enjoyable experience for users – and they can smell the stink of money-grabs from a mile away – and as of late, Facebook has been as worse at walking that line than a liquored up Reese Witherspoon. 

Yahoo (and in my realistic hypothetical, Facebook) is interested in Tumblr because it is cool. But it’s only cool because it offers a purer user experience than a monetization-oriented service can. It might be able to eke out a path that lets it boost profit without creeping users out, but if Yahoo (or Facebook) gets put in charge of carving that route, my guess is the collateral damage will be too much, and the valuable 18-to-24 set will migrate. 

Chasing hipness is a futile task. But Tumblr has it. Will it trade being a beloved social network for being a wealthy one? Probably, but it’s going to decrease its shelf-life. 

Smart Home

Busted: Facebook Portal gets 5-star reviews from company employees

It's fair to say that Facebook's Portal smart display received a tepid response at launch, so it was something of a surprise to see lots of glowing reviews of the device on Amazon. Turns out some were written by Facebook workers.
Music

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Music

Spotify is the best streaming service, but its competitors aren’t far behind

It can be hard to decide which music streaming service is for you, so we've picked out the individual strengths of the most popular services, aiming to make your decision a little easier.
Photography

From DIY to AAA, here's how to take a passport photo in 6 different ways

If you're applying for a passport or renewing one, you need to submit a photo in your official application. There are strict guidelines, but fortunately, it's something you can do at home. Here's how to take a passport photo.
Photography

Starting your very own vlog? Here are the best cameras to buy

Any camera that shoots video can be used to vlog, but a few models stand out from the crowd thanks to superior image quality, ergonomics, and usability. When it comes to putting your life on YouTube, here are the best cameras for the job.
Social Media

Twitter extends its new timeline feature to Android users

Twitter users with an Android device can now quickly switch between an algorithm-generated timeline and one that shows the most recent tweets first. The new feature landed for iPhone users last month.
Social Media

YouTube to crack down on dangerous stunts like the ‘Bird Box’ challenge

YouTube already bans content showing dangerous activities, but new rules published by the site go into greater detail regarding potentially harmful challenges and pranks, including certain blindfold- or laundry detergent-based stunts.
Social Media

Nearly 75 percent of U.S. users don’t realize Facebook tracks their interests

Did you know Facebook tracks your interests, including political and multicultural affiliations? According to a recent Pew study, 74 percent of adult users in the U.S. have no idea Facebook keeps a running list of your interests.
Mobile

It’s back! Here’s how to switch to Twitter’s reverse chronological feed

Twitter has finally brought back the reverse chronological feed, allowing you to see your feed based on the newest tweets, rather than using Twitter's algorithm that shows what it thinks you want to see. It's easy to switch.
Social Media

Nearly a million Facebook users followed these fake Russian accounts

Facebook purged two separate groups behind more than 500 fake accounts with Russian ties. One group had ties to Russian news agency Sputnik, while the other had behavior similar to the Internet Research Agency's midterm actions.
Social Media

Twitter suffers privacy scare as bug reveals tweets of protected accounts

If you set your Twitter account to private and you have an Android device, you'd better check your settings now. Twitter says it's just fixed a four-year-old bug that flipped the privacy switch to make the account public.
Web

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.
Social Media

Spice up your Instagram videos by adding your top tunes to the soundtrack

Have you ever taken a beautiful video, only to have it ruined by some jerk in the background yelling curse words? Here's a list of apps you can use to add your own music to Instagram posts as well as your Story.
Social Media

How to download Instagram Stories

Curious about how to save someone's Instagram Story to your phone? Lucky for you, it can be done -- but it does take a few extra steps. Here's what you need to know to save Instagram Stories on both iOS and Android.