Tumblr has been an millstone around the neck of its owners, first Yahoo and later Oath and Verizon Media, pretty much since it was acquired in 2013. They never concluded an answer to the question that new proprietor Automattic is likely about to take a crack at: how to make this unruly erstwhile porn plant turn a profit.
Amazingly, the secret technique that Tumblr may have been waiting for was good old-fashioned business sense: become something people want, then bill them a good expenditure for it. Tumblr may fit into the WordPress model and do merely this — quite a change from the incidental monetization aims of the past decade.
The Yahoo acquisition under the stewardship of Marissa Mayer seems to have been formed with the assumption, naive in retrospect but unbelievably common in that era, that you could buy an audience, plunk some ads in the produce, then sit back and tell the money roll in.
But beyond doing that, Yahoo never actually did anything with Tumblr apart from adding a few features and expanding ads. And for a while growth was good and the network abounded, even rivaling Instagram on some metrics.
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