What’s Going On With Tumblr?

All of a sudden everything seems to be getting designated a platform even when the claim is a little weak.

The latest is Tumblr which frankly, if it is anything other than a service provider is a network or maybe, at a stretch, a social network and perhaps, an emerging community (but a very fractured and erratic one). In some ways, Tumblr is like the webring of the 21st century the only difference being that it is nicely designed and ‘ultra-hip’.

Yet Tumblr seems to be attracting a huge amount of interest from media and publishing companies as this Read Write Web blog post makes clear:

“Part of what we do is experiment on different platforms, and it seemed apparent to us that there was a sizable number of NPR fans on Tumblr,” he says. “It’s less about pageviews and more about engaging a community that enjoys NPR.”

Carvin says NPR is taking a very experimental approach to Tumblr in terms of curating content to share, engaging one-on-one with followers and determining how to voice the blog.

He adds that he is eager to get feedback from fans, but that there is no “grand plan” for what they intend to accomplish.
NPR Looks to Engage New Audiences On Tumblr.

Taking the Tumblr plunge is just as stupid as taking the Twitter plunge or the blogging plunge if you haven’t the faintest idea why you are doing it? Why on earth would NPR get involved in this while at the same time admitting that they don’t have a ‘grand plan’?

Sure, experimentation is interesting, valid and worth engaging in, but this kind of shot in the dark stuff reeks of chasing an illusory ‘cool’ crowd.

Tumblr is interesting in its own way and there seems to be some kind of community building there, but Tumblr is NOT the solution for publishers and media companies, their own websites offer so much more opportunity for engaging with audiences, audiences who are coming TO them, not being interrupted BY them. Quite a few publishers could spend some time sorting that side of things out before running off to the next pretty ‘platform’ they see.

Still coughing, which is annoying!

8 thoughts on “What’s Going On With Tumblr?

  1. Yes, exactly. And I love the Webring analogy. That’s what it is — but worse! You can’t even be listed in their damned directory because they won’t state what the criteria is!

    1. Thanks Mike!

      The Webring thing came to me today as I looked over some of the groups that are forming there.

      They are interesting in their own way, but they don’t care about brands or media. They care about their thing, whatever that might be!

  2. Hi there,

    The problem with having grand plans is that they often stifle something from getting off the ground. We’ve always taken an informal approach to kicking the tires of tools and platforms we think might be useful, and have a measurable NPR fan base. We did it with Twitter and with Facebook, where we experimented and grew them until they became a very large part of our engagement with the public. They account for almost 10% of the traffic to our website now, and have become the main way our reporters collaborate with the public on news projects. It’s simply a matter of going to a place where you know your supporters happen to be, begin a conversation with them, and build from there. And so far, it’s worked extremely well for us.

    One thing that’s a bit misleading about the article, though, was the title. We’re not looking for new audiences on Tumblr. Those kinds of shots in the dark don’t necessarily work. On any given day there are hundreds of Tumblr posts about NPR and our work. We went to Tumblr because we know our fans are already there, and we want to make it easier for them to reach us.


    1. I’m impressed with the follow up Andy!

      For whatever reason, in reading and thinking about the piece I think this critical bit didn’t hit home with me:

      We went to Tumblr because we know our fans are already there, and we want to make it easier for them to reach us.

      When you reiterated it in your comment your move made more sense.

      Grand plans have their weaknesses, there’s no doubt, but it sounds to me from what you’ve said that Tumblr actually does fit an overall vision for engaging with fans, perhaps I just missed that?

      All the best,

  3. Just realized I didn’t respond to the second part of your first reply (if that makes sense). NPR’s broader social media strategy is simple. First and foremost is to serve NPR’s mission of creating a more informed public. Second, to use social media to empower those who love us and listen to those who don’t. NPR is the primary public service radio broadcaster in the US, and it’s noncommercial as well, so a big part of what we do on my team is to enlist our biggest supporters in sharing our content, involving them in collaborative projects, etc, since we don’t have the same resources a commercial new company does. So in that sense, we do have a grand plan when it comes to social media more generally. Sites like Tumblr might be a part of it; we’ll see how it goes.

    thanks again,

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