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Yahoo, meet your new users: Tumblr adds sponsored posts, and the grumbles begin

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:

Tumblr complaint 1

tumblr complaint 2

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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.

16 Responses to “Yahoo, meet your new users: Tumblr adds sponsored posts, and the grumbles begin”

  1. Chunks

    They never consider there might be people out there who purposely WILL NOT click on ads only because they are intrusive. I never buy into anything that’s being aggresively advertised out of principle. So many ads are overpowering our spaces nowadays, tumblr will just be another site that follows suit.
    I can’t even imagine having tumblr to express, for example, your mental issues (me being one of those people, along with so many others) and seeing those SUPERFICIAL ads.
    Nothing remains its integrity nowadays, money just has to be the top priority.

  2. I really think Yahoo is going to screw up Tumblr. I can already see it dying! It think Yahoo just doesn’t have the right age group in their company. Tumblr’s more kids where Yahoo seems more adult like and more designed for older people.

  3. ricdesan

    “Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is clearly betting on sponsored stories”

    Yeah and she is clearly demonstrating her lack of understanding of social platform dynamics! She thinks – as all short sighted tech CEO’s – that they can dictate to a user base what they will and will not want to see. You would think these supposedly sharp people would understand what the natural damage would be to force-altering something dynamic that has already discovered its recipe for success!

    Gotta love that corporate, if it works lets fix it mindset!

  4. joe d.

    I’m fine with tumblr Ads. But without even quasi-interest based targeting, it’s going to feel like a major aberration to the experience.