Tumblr hasn’t even been under Yahoo’s ownership for two full weeks, and already the “Yahoo” tag on Tumblr has become a colorful collection of rants and expletives from angry users, many of whom are convinced Yahoo has ruined their community.
Disgruntled users aren’t anything new when a company changes hands. But the complaints by Tumblr users speak to the challenges Yahoo faces in winning over the young audience it acquired and in turning Tumblr into a money maker by introducing advertising where it didn’t previously exist.
Yahoo announced Thursday that it would begin showing ads in the form of sponsored stories on the Tumblr web dashboard, which is where core Tumblr users go to check for updates from the blogs they follow. Tumblr had already introduced ads on mobile back in April, and when Yahoo announced the Tumblr acquistiion, there was no question that its ad network would soon follow.
And just as people complained about large ads showing up on their Facebook feed or promoted tweets from accounts they don’t follow, the complaints about Tumblr’s sponsored posts are already rolling in:
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is clearly betting on sponsored stories serving as a kind of advertising that Tumblr’s users can accept, as she explained at the time of the acquistion:
“David talks wistfully about the ads that he saw as a child, that would make him want to go see a movie or own a particular type of car,” Mayer said when the deal was announced. “He says the current state of internet advertising doesn’t aspire to be as good as the content itself. We think that should change…we’re aligned in those ideals. When you hear us talk about native ads, where the ads are every bit as good as the content, and maybe even make the content better — that’s what we are aiming for. We want the ads themselves to create that aspirational feel that, for example, television ads or movie ads do.”
But will Tumblr users find the sponsored stories inspirational? This is a big open question on all sorts of platforms, not just Tumblr, but it’s probably fair to say that fewer people view Twitter or Facebook as private, creative spaces the way people do with Tumblr. And the more private a space you feel like you’ve created (cough, Instagram), the more intrusive these ads might seem. Yahoo, say hello to your new users. They could be tough customers.