When I was 14, I had a Tumblr blog dedicated to the emo rock band Panic! At The Disco (and no, I’m absolutely not going to link it in this article). Tumblr essentially took over my life in my early high school years. I was scrolling through my blog during class and in the school hallways. Re-blogging posts on my phone in the passenger’s seat on the drive home, and subsequently late into the night instead of doing my homework. I spent countless hours curating my feed and my page, making “Internet Friends” and re-blogging band memes. I even became a mini-computer scientist and learned how to personally code my own blog theme. Ultimately, for about a year and a half, my Tumblr account was my prized possession.
As humiliating as this anecdote should be for me to admit, it honestly really isn’t (…that much). Weirdly, I remember my Tumblr years as one of the most nostalgic times in my teenhood. I can pretty much put my finger on exactly what drew me to Tumblr, and kept me endlessly hooked: the sense of community that the platform so seamlessly managed to facilitate. I mean, pretty much anyone could find a niche on there in its heyday. Obsessed with a certain band? So are a ton of other users. Want to discuss the lore of your favorite TV show? So do literally hundreds of other people on the platform.
Like looking at pretty pictures? So do millions of other users. And, these individual communities were essentially lawless. Any “ad” that found its way onto my Tumblr feed was essentially nonsensical (see above–yep, those are real ads). There was extremely minimal censorship. And, random opinions ran rampant.
The funniest thing about Tumblr was that no one could really find a way to market to its user base. Aside from the extremely rare and occasional “Tumblr Influencer,” Tumblr was not the platform to monetize your image or rise to influencer fame. There was no way to shop, no way to advertise, and no special upgrades or features to sell. It even became a joke amongst Tumblr users that simply no company could discover a way to market to its user base. I mean, we were all too “cool” and “alternative” to fall for marketing tactics anyway.
Honestly, I still have my blog and scroll through it from time to time. So, when I randomly opened it up a few days ago for the first time in months and saw a collective of users complaining about Tumblr’s unfair “monetization of users,” I had to google it. Here’s what I found:
Essentially, Tumblr has introduced a glorified Patreon/OnlyFans for its users to opt into. Dubbed Post+, this new addition to the platform allows users to charge an optional monthly fee to their users, who can opt into receiving “exclusive content” in exchange for payment.
Tumblr’s creators note that they hope this new addition will help to draw young creators to the platform. The goal is to allow users to “influence” Tumblr by monetizing themselves and their creations through Post+. In its prime, Tumblr had a growing user base. Today, the only people really left on the app are long-term users who really only spend time scrolling through their dash out of morbid comfort and habit (yes, I’m speaking from experience). Tumblr hopes to subvert the current stagnancy of its user base by drawing in new users and creators. And, an additional benefit for the platform owners themselves? Tumblr racks in 5% of Post+ user’s monthly profits.
But, is Post+ really a legitimate and smart way to do that? I have more than a few thoughts on the matter. First of all, the first thing that came to mind when I read about Post+ was that it was a little too similar to the pre-established likes of Patreon and OnlyFans. And, while Patreon is a little tamer in terms of content, with many creators and influencers simply using the platform to provide safe-for-work content to their fans, OnlyFans is, at this point in time, predominantly utilized for paid NSFW content production.
The Day Tumblr Died
Interestingly enough, in 2018, Tumblr actually announced a flat ban on any NSFW content production on the platform. This, to their apparent shock, caused a massive rift in the user community. After all, Tumblr at the time functioned as a corner of the Internet where even smaller corners and communities could emerge. It was widely uncensored and utilized an algorithm that allowed for direct interaction between users and their followers. Therefore, various NSFW communities carved out their own worlds on the platform. Many of these users not only saw Tumblr as a safe space for their own interests and content production but had also made veritable careers out of their online presence on the app.
Additionally, the ban widely affected artists who showcased their work on the Tumblr platform. The flagging of NSFW content was disorganized, and creators whose content ranged from photography to even artistic depictions of NSFW images and situations were flagged and removed from the app. I guess Tumblr’s corporate headquarters underestimated just how integral this community they had rapidly alienated was to their user base. After the ban went into effect, the platform’s user engagement dropped by a whopping 20% almost overnight. Many refer to the day that the ban went into effect as “the day Tumblr died.”
Not a Cent
Now, Tumblr is trying to incentivize users to opt into a paid subscription opportunity that provides followers with “exclusive content.” After alienating their entire user base of sex workers who used Tumblr for financial gain, as well as many of their artists and creators whose content wasn’t entirely “safe for work,” many of the very types of creators who would actually capitalize on an update like this are no longer even on the site. And, these sites that offer “exclusive content” are, often, used by people who want to offer NSFW content for a price. Tumblr wouldn’t even allow its users to offer graphic content to their viewers, making the whole concept of exclusive content offering, pointless for like half of its user base who might want to use it for NSFW content. Instead, they’ll continue to create content on the pre-established platforms of Tumblr and Patreon.
Second, people on Tumblr, even creators on Tumblr, just simply don’t want to spend any sort of money on Tumblr. The platform has always thrived in its free, laid-back sharing of free, uncensored content. I mean, look at the outrage that ensued when this new update was announced. It’s quite telling that the Post+ tool is entirely optional, yet users are still enraged over even the possibility of Tumblr making a single cent off of its user base. Influencing is simply just not in the nature of the app’s established base.
Keeping the Original Tumblr Alive
If one day, Tumblr decided that they were going to charge creators to use the app or attempt to charge creators to view content, I’d probably have to say goodbye to my 2013 blog for good. Here’s hoping that day never comes, and Tumblr continues to remain an unmarketable platform where users silently reblog pretty pictures and stupid memes and photos of band members to their heart’s content.
Featured Image from Tumblr