Is Mainstream Social Media Pushing Tumblr to a Tipping Point?

Updated: August 16, 2010

The Road to 1.5 Billion...

Launched in March, 2007 by founder David Karp and lead developer Marco Arment, Tumblr has traveled a bumpy road. Less than a year ago, it was accused of squandering its $10mil in investment capital with little hope of positive returns.

Something happened in early 2010. In the last 6 months, Tumblr has doubled its page views. Many attribute it to a thrust for the "tweener" social media site - more content than Twitter, less than a full blog. It is currently picking up 25,000 new accounts daily.

Regardless of why its growth spiked, one thing is certain. People are starting to notice it. The New York Times said Tumblr is Twitter's and Facebook's new rival.

What Makes Tumblr Special?

AOL technology blog Switched said this about Tumblr:

"For those who are looking for a way to express their thoughts and interests without having to partake in wordy meanderings, Tumblr is an ideal choice among blogging platforms."

Sitepoint asks:

"Is Tumblr the new Twitter?"

NetworkWorld comments:

"At times, I began to feel that Tumblr is what Facebook ought to be - easy to use, easy to customize, feature-rich, without a limit on the number of words in posts, and with a far less restrictive limit on the size of photos."

Therein lies the key to its appeal. Switched called it a blogging platform, Sitepoint compared it Twitter, and NetworkWorld compared it to Facebook.

Many use Tumblr as a simple alternative to Wordpress, Blogger, or Typepad with quick blogging, reblogging, and feed integration options that allow for faster, more automated methods of running a blog.

For others, it's a microblogging alternative to Twitter, allowing for quick sharing of thoughts without the absolute constraint of 140-characters. Unlike Twitter, videos and images can be posted directly to the stream rather than simply linked.

Other people use it as a community site similar to Vox and Ning. While the community aspect is less robust with "membership" happening simply by "following" a site, the communities are still extremely active and engaged with one another.

Perhaps the biggest differentiator between Tumblr and other social sites is the reblogging tool. Similar to Facebook, one can take content that they find on one Tumblelog and instantly share it on their own Tumblelog with a couple of button clicks.

Is it a blog? A microblog? A community? This lack of identity is, perhaps, helping Tumblr carve out a unique identity of its own.

Who's Using Tumblr?

Mainstream media is embracing Tumblr.

Businesses are embracing Tumblr. Currently, it is mostly small- to medium-sized businesses using it, but expect to see big corporations jump on the bandwagon just as they did with Twitter over a year ago.

Bloggers and social media users are embracing Tumblr.

For years, Wordpress has been the darling of social media sites. Its blogging functionality and abundance of themes and plugins have made it a natural choice for those who have the desire to spread a message, make money with content, or both to have an affordable platform where they could drive traffic.

Over the last several months, many of those who are savvy enough to use traffic-generators such as Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon have turned to Tumblr as their preferred content platform. In the last 30 days, Tumblr blogs (often referred to as tumblelogs or tumblogs) have accounted for 53 front page stories on Digg, driving an estimated 1.4 million unique visitors referred from the single social news site alone.

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