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Summary:

Looking to find the best blog posts on Tumblr? The company isn’t interested in telling you which blogs are the best, but it does want to improve the overall discovery process — and help the best bloggers find financial success.

paidContent Live 2013 David Karp Tumblr
photo: Albert Chau

Think your blog posts on Tumblr are pretty good? Just talk to the people who’ve turned those posts into book deals.

Speaking at PaidContent Live in New York on Wednesday, Tumblr CEO David Karp described the site as a creative platform where users are free to grow an audience and develop talent that has the potential to see success elsewhere, such as the 70 users who turned their blogging skills into book deals. Karp said the company saw three book deals for users last month alone, but the company isn’t viewing that as the only metric of success.

“What’s even more interesting to me than people going through traditional paths are people who are using those new emerging platforms,” he said. “What’s so exciting to me about Tumblr as a media network today is this new generation of creative commercialization tools that are being built on top of these other networks. People who don’t have to go to Harpers to publish the book deal, they can self-publish on Kickstarter instead.”

Karp’s focus on creativity is an idea that extends into the way the company is rolling out advertising. The company recently started rolling out mobile advertising, and is working on making that advertising fit within the existing Tumblr network.

“We focused on higher up in the funnel, the type of advertising that creates intent,” Karp said. “It gives room for the most creative advertisers to create their best work. I think we’ve started to prove it, and see really good examples of it.”

But Karp noted that Tumblr isn’t profitable yet — although he expects it eventually will be — and he noted he has supportive investors for the company, which most recently raised $85 million in venture funding back in 2011. The company gained notoriety recently when it shut down Storyboard, the experimental project in which it hired an editorial staff to highlight and aggregate the best content on Tumblr.

“It’s not a knock on that team at all. We hired a really brilliant team to do really good work. We gave it a shot, we gave it a year. And after a year, we decided it wasn’t the right tool for our toolbox,” Karp said. “It was working in some regards, but not in the we wanted to see it look.”

Tumblr isn’t that focused on the number of pageviews the site is getting, Karp said, although users create 90 million new Tumblr posts per day. Instead, Karp said the focus has moved to time spent on Tumblr — now at 14 minutes per day — and figuring out how to monetize that content as well as helping new users discover interesting content without picking favorites among the blogs.

“We want to give you the stuff you’re going to love on Tumblr, but we don’t want to say what great stuff on Tumblr is. We don’t want to say what great content is, or these are our favorite blogs. We don’t wan to color it too much or scare anybody off.”

Check out the rest of our paidContent Live 2013 coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:


A transcription of the video follows on the next page
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  1. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of those who’ve self published, simply to have “the definitive book.”

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