When we published a leaked copy of Tumblr’s ad sales pitch deck on the day Yahoo acquired the social blogging site, you may have noticed some odd language on the last page: The part that says “non-targeted.”
It is fairly dismal,” said one ad buyer. “I’ve never ever heard any of our customers ask about Tumblr ads, maybe a handful ask us about Tumblr analytics,” with the exception of one standout client that the source declined to name.
Another source told us, “They don’t know much about people [their members] and targeting is very, very limited. They only recently enabled targeting for U.S. only!”
One huge issue for Yahoo is that currently there is very little inside Tumblr to target. Users can get an account with an email address and by filling in their age. They don’t have to provide any other identity information. Tumblr is thus filled with people using names that don’t even identify them as male or female. It’s the opposite of Facebook, which has dozens of “real identity” fields that gather targeting information from users.
Tumblr, in fact, has the same targeting problem that Twitter has: It literally doesn’t know who its members are.
As an outsider who was tracking Youtube monetization, we sensed this but it’s nice to get confirmation from an insider. I remember around 5 years ago, the party line was that they were trying to get $20 RPM through a combination of pre rolls and display ads on the site.
At some point, it was clear that this strategy changed. Here’s Hunter Walk’s story of what happened:
Stop Short Term Monetization That Won’t Scale
YouTube was just starting to earn revenue via a host of banner ads and one-off branded campaigns. Neither of these were going to be important longterm and many of the programs put money in our pocket, but passed through little benefit to content creators because they sold YouTube inventory. It took a good 18 months but under the right goals and leadership the cross functional team started sunsetting this stuff for more scalable monetization products which put money in content creators’ pockets.
Tumblr will launch a test of “in-stream” ads on its desktop users’ dashboards as soon as tomorrow, a source tells Business Insider. A company representative declined to comment.
The ads will look like normal posts from other Tumblr users, appearing in users’ personal news feeds.
“We promise not to screw up Tumblr.”
Juxtapose that to this article on flickr: How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost the Internet
There may also be another benefit to not integrating– it’s easier to sell off if you never integrate it in the first place.
Yang’s statement is closest to what Yahoo has aspired be — “the most essential starting point” for Internet users — and struggled to become as it was lapped by Google, Facebook and others who developed very profitable services that prevailed over Yahoo’s.
This is a Yang quote but it still speaks to the core appeal of what Yahoo was (and wants to return to) when everyone went to their my.yahoo page to get the digital content.
As I’ve stated before, as marketers get more demanding for multi-screen metrics, Yahoo needs to increase their PVs of logged in users. On paper, they’ve reversed this the growth trends for those metrics through this acquisition.
The story about the federal government’s investigation into Google helping shady companies in the online pharmacy space advertise on AdWords. In case you don’t remember the result:
Google settled with the government in August 2011, agreeing to pay a $500 million corporate forfeiture that was one of the biggest in US history at the time. As part of the agreement, the company acknowledged that it had helped presumably Canadian online pharmacies use AdWords as early as 2003, that it knew US customers were buying drugs through these ads, that advertisers were selling drugs without requiring prescriptions, and that Google employees actively helped advertisers circumvent their own pharmaceutical policies and third-party verification services.
There are lots of crappy point of views out there on this. I’m pretty opinionated on this topic so what I said shouldn’t be too surprising. Here are my quick thoughts:
It’s easiest to think through these from Marissa Mayer’s point of view, not Yahoo’s. The CEO role isn’t all about doing what’s immediately best for Yahoo. Sometimes politics forces you to take the longer path to getting where you want to go.
Practically speaking, Yahoo has a lot more pressing needs right now. For example, their ad tech stack is hurting and could use some help. However, the practical view is not good at accounting for things that are hard to quantify such as company morale and influence of the leadership. These aren’t practical times at Yahoo.
I won’t discuss the idea that Tumblr could reinvigorate company morale because that’s pretty simple. I also won’t discuss the idea that Yahoo wants to own a consumer brand that people care about for the same reasons.
Not many people are really thinking about the idea of Marissa Mayer buying metrics. I’m talking about UVs and PVs. History doesn’t asterisk UV/PV charts and any reversal or upward trajectory is usually credited to leadership’s effort. In other words, Marissa might be buying a downside risk insurance policy. Once Tumblr’s users counts, PVs, and UVs get folded into Yahoo totals, they won’t continue to provide breakouts so we won’t know what’s really going on.
The high level monetization math is: Yahoo’s sales force + Tumblr and native monetization = Growth. I’ve always argued that most of the big sites don’t have a usage problem, they have a monetization problem. Yahoo makes it harder to make that argument because their usage is declining but weakness with monetization is the bigger issue.
Acquiring Tumblr is a stepping stone strategy. Tumblr is not the solution but maybe it’s the first of a few chess moves to get to a solution. I suppose if there is a takeaway from this post, it’s that I find most blog posts about Yahoo acquiring Tumblr uninteresting because they fail to consider the politics in the situation. It’s a crucial constraint and if you remove it from the problem, the answer you arrive at is vastly different than the correct one.
Reddit’s ad sales pitch deck is fantastic for two reasons.
First, it has lots of amazing facts about the sheer size of “the front page of the internet.” Reddit’s 70 million monthly readers spent an average of 20 minutes on the site, and looked at 5 billion of its pages, for instance.
Second, it’s hilarious.