It's a Crying Shame Tumblr Hasn't Quite Figured Out Its Revenue Problem Yet

A Totally True Tale of a Tumblr-Famous Toddler Throwing a Temper Tantrum at... Tumblr

By Published on .

Here's a short (true) story about the times we live in:

1. A few weeks back, a Rochester dad named Greg Pembroke decides to take to Facebook to share photos of his 21-month old son Charlie crying about... well, everything. His friends are so amused that they suggest he create a Tumblr blog about the wailing toddler. His first Tumblr post, captioned "He is out of pretzel sticks," shows Charlie crying as he crawls on the kitchen floor; it appears on April 2 on Pembroke's exceedingly spare Tumblr blog titled "Reasons My Son Is Crying."

2. The Tumblr community goes crazy for Charlie. Or, rather, for his dad's wry little conceptual-art project, which shows shot after shot of Charlie, always in tears, with dryly hilarious captions like "I wouldn't let him drink bath water," "He is bad at eating yogurt" and"I wouldn't let him eat Buzz Lightyear's head."

3 (a). Tumblr, it's worth noting here, increasingly rules the internet. What takes off on Tumblr these days often breaks through as viral phenomena on the internet at large. On March 26, Tumblr hit the 100-million blog mark -- up from "just" 50 million blogs in April 2012. For now, at least, Tumblr is unstoppable.

3 (b). Marketers and media companies are still having a hard time figuring out how to harness the power of Tumblr, and Tumblr itself is having a devil of a time figuring out how to monetize all those eyeballs. Just yesterday Tumblr laid off the editorial team behind its Storyboard initiative, apparently bowing to pressure to move toward profitability. But none of that bothers Charlie...

3 (c). Charlie is more bothered by the fact that his dad asked that he not wipe his muddy shoes off on the car seats.

4. Wait, actually, there's one media company that has figured out how to instantly monetize tantrum-throwing-toddler-related Tumblr content: ABC. The network booked Greg Pembroke and his sons Charlie and William (you get the sense that cheerful three-and-a-half-year-old William would have had a crying fit of his own if he didn't get to tag along) on "Good Morning America" yesterday; the show reported that the "Reasons My Son Is Crying" blog attracted 600,000 visitors in just a week's time. (There are no ads on "Reasons My Son Is Crying" -- or much of the rest of Tumblr, for that matter -- but of course "GMA" ran commercials before and after the Pembroke family's appearance, and pre-roll spots are running before the web clip of their segment.) Charlie gets through the brief appearance without completely losing his shit, but...

5. Back to Tumblr! There you can see that Charlie cried at the airport on the way to New York for his "GMA" star-turn, while getting mic'd for "GMA," and also back at his hotel where he was upset that, in his dad's words, "We wouldn't let him open the hotel door and run naked through Times Square."

6. Perhaps most notably, Charlie also got to throw a tantrum at, yes, Tumblr headquarters during his visit to New York -- thus completing the Internet Circle of Life. (Why was he crying? "We wouldn't let him eat candy from the floor.") Hard proof, I suppose, of the astonishing speed and velocity of viral fame these days (remember, Greg Pembroke's first Tumblr post was just 8 days ago), and evidence of the way that social media can touch the lives of even the barely ambulatory.

POSTSCRIPT: In a move reminiscent of Yahoo's recent aqui-hire of 17-year-old Summly CEO Nick D'Aloisio, Tumblr has hired 21-month-old Charlie Pembroke to be its new Chief Revenue Officer and VP of Business Development. His job will be to visit big brands and keep crying until their CMOs agree to give Tumblr money.

OK, I just made that last paragraph up -- but not a half-bad idea, don't you think?

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

Most Popular
In this article: