Tumblr is downscaling its ambitions after failing to reach goals for a new audience, aiming to move some staff members to other divisions of parent company Automattic. A leaked memo, which circulated on Tumblr and was confirmed in a Verge comment by Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg, says that “the majority” of Tumblr’s non-support, safety, and moderation staff will “switch to other divisions.” In followup posts on Tumblr, Mullenweg stated that Automattic is planning “a more focused approach in 2024,” including an emphasis on the “core functionality” of the site.
“After 600+ person-years of effort put into Tumblr since the acquisition in 2019, we have not gotten the expected results from our effort, which was to have its revenue and usage above its previous peaks,” the memo reads. It describes implementing a backup plan to “reflect and decide where else we should concentrate our energy together” without laying off staff from Automattic — which also operates the WordPress.com and WordPress VIP hosting services. “This plan is happening now.” That involves transferring the majority of 139 people on a team identified as covering product development, marketing, and other tasks outside support, moderation, and security.
Mullenweg emphasized in his comment that there would be “no changes” in the Trust and Safety team handling moderation, and “in fact we may add more people there.” On his Tumblr blog, he outlined a little of what Tumblr users can expect to change. “One thing I’m hoping with a more focused approach in 2024 is that we can streamline some of the extra things that were launched (like Live) that haven’t gotten the adoption we hoped, and focus in on the core functionality that people use a ton of on Tumblr,” he said. “We will likely be shipping less new stuff and more focused on improving existing functionality and core flows.”
Live refers to a video streaming feature Tumblr launched in late 2022 — one that has gotten prominent placement in Tumblr’s menu but remained an apparent boondoggle for many existing Tumblr users. “We have a contractual obligation to try to make Live as successful as possible through the end of the year, and we’ll do our best there,” Mullenweg said. “By January, aligned with the new more focused approached of Tumblr teams, we’ll re-assess whether it should be part of the Tumblr app anymore.”
Tumblr has attempted a variety of new monetization strategies, including Live, a sponsored post feature called Blaze, an ad-free subscription, and a paid content feature called Post Plus. Their success has apparently been mixed. Mullenweg called Post Plus the subject of a viral “misinformation” campaign that…