Tumblr’s only viable business model is shitposting

As Elon Musk struggles to make people give Twitter $8 a month for a blue check, Tumblr had an idea: What if they offered users $8 for not one, but two blue checks?

Yes, you can legitimately buy two blue checks for your Tumblr blog. For the low, low price of $7.99. As Tumblr wrote in an official post, “That’s cheaper than some other places, when you consider that you get not one but TWO checkmarks for your blog.”

If you keep paying Tumblr, you can get even more blue checks. Want 10 blue checks? That’ll be about $40.

Tumblr has struggled to monetize for its entire existence. Tumblr was acquired by Yahoo (TechCrunch’s parent company) for $1 billion in 2013, but when it sold again to Verizon (TechCrunch’s former parent company) in 2019, it was worth just $3 million.

Tumblr’s success as a social media platform has been in even more jeopardy since it banned porn in 2018 to protect its presence on the App Store. In the last year alone, Automattic has tried to get Tumblr to make money through paid ad-free browsing, a subscription product and a tip jar, marking some of the first paid creator features on the longstanding blogging site. Yet despite growing nostalgia for Tumblr, the platform has failed to grow its user base significantly since the porn ban, when it lost 30% of web traffic.

Tumblr’s initial rollout of its Post+ subscription rollout was a mess, as users worried how the harsh reality of capitalism would change their fandom paradise. But Tumblr users have proven to be extremely willing to pay money for two things: ad-free browsing and shitposting. 

According to data from SensorTower, Tumblr’s mobile app has seen approximately $507,000 in consumer spending since April. That was the month when Tumblr announced Blaze, a feature that lets users promote their own posts. Not coincidentally, Blaze debuted on 4/20 with price points ending in $4.20.

On a platform like Facebook, promoted posts are usually for businesses. On Tumblr, Blazed posts are commonly used to make other people bear witness to your cursed content.

Since the launch of Blaze, Tumblr’s top five in-app purchases have been ad-free browsing (monthly and annual), two price points for Blaze and … crabs. Yes, crabs. In July, Tumblr added a feature that allows you to send someone crabs that dance around their dashboard for a day, and now, crabs have generated more in-app purchases than Post+.

Tumblr’s paid jab at Twitter verification has only just launched, so we can’t say yet how profitable it will be. But if Tumblr’s history is any indication, this should be a financial slam dunk, since Tumblr users seem to just really want to buy things that are useless.

According to analytics firm Similarweb, Tumblr did not experience a significant uptick in monthly visits worldwide on mobile and desktop after it launched creator monetization features in summer 2021. However, Tumblr is generating some more interest now that we live in a world in which Elon Musk owns Twitter. Other alternative social networks have seen an influx of new users too — Mastodon nearly doubled its user base so far this month.

Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic (the company that owns Tumblr), tweeted that Tumblr app downloads are up about 58% in the last week. This could be because Twitter now seems like more of a hellsite than Tumblr under Musk’s ownership, or because Tumblr just changed its community guidelines. Now, Tumblr allows nudity, but not “visual depictions of sexually explicit acts.” Some internet denizens took this policy change to mean that porn is back, but the last time we checked, porn generally falls into the category of “visual depictions of sexually explicit acts.”

If you’re looking to jump ship from Twitter as Elon Musk gets settled in as its new owner, I hate to break it to you: Tumblr may not be your saving grace (unless if you’re a former “Superwholock” fan whose new favorite book is “Gideon the Ninth,” in which case, you’re probably still on Tumblr anyway). But to be fair, it’s likely that none of the Twitter alternatives that are floating around — no, not even Mastodon — will become the new Twitter.

Regardless, Tumblr now has something that Twitter doesn’t: two blue checkmarks.


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