Verizon unloads Tumblr in deal with WordPress owner
Verizon has announced the sale of Tumblr, the fallen online community left over from the Yahoo acquisition, to the owner of WordPress, the website publishing company.
On Monday, Verizon Media said it was unloading Tumblr, but did not disclose the terms of the deal. Axios reported the sale was less than $20 million.
Automattic, the owner of WordPress, is expected to keep on most of the 200 employees at Tumblr, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the sale.
Tumblr and its new owner share similar roles in the world of online publishing, developing tools that make it easy for businesses and bloggers to power their websites. Tumblr claims to host 475 million self-published blogs.
“Automattic was impressed with the Tumblr team’s ability to deliver a seamless publishing and sharing experience for users,” Verizon wrote in its announcement of the sale.
With this deal, Verizon is unloading a property that does not quite fit its content strategy, and it will no longer have any headaches from the site, which included a child porn problem that was uncovered last year. Tumblr has since adopted a zero-porn policy after the revelations that users were sharing offensive and sometimes illegal images.
The loss of the free expression, however, did alienate some hardcore users of the platform. Automattic is expected to maintain the porn ban.
Founded in 2007, Tumblr was once a shooting star in the startup world, often mentioned in the same category as Twitter and Pinterest. In 2013, Yahoo paid $1.1 billion to make Tumblr the crown jewel of its turnaround project under CEO Marissa Mayer.
The promise of the union never paid off and by the time Verizon agreed to buy Yahoo in 2016 it seemed obvious that Tumblr would not fit the company’s long-term plans. Verizon bought Yahoo and AOL to develop its digital media and advertising prospects, a strategy that has also faced difficulties. This year, Verizon pivoted away from the new entity it created out of Yahoo and AOL called Oath, and renamed it simply Verizon Media, amid declining ad revenue.
At this year’s Digital Content NewFronts, the yearly advertising sales fest, one of Verizon Media's main selling points was that it produces brand-safe, professional quality shows and videos. It’s a message that could be seen as at odds with Tumblr’s less-controlled, user-generated atmosphere.
“Verizon Media is solidifying its strategy to focus on premium original content experiences for its owned and operated channels,” Verizon said in its announcement.