Verizon Sells Tumblr to Company That Owns WordPress08/12/2019
Verizon announced a deal to sell Tumblr — the blogging site Yahoo acquired for $1.1 billion six years ago — to Automattic, the company that owns and operates online-publishing site WordPress.com.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it’s surely nowhere near what Yahoo originally paid. Automattic will bring about 200 Tumblr employees on-board with the deal, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news.
Verizon, which bought Yahoo in 2017, had been looking to unload Tumblr, the Journal reported in May. Tumblr hosts some 475 million blogs currently, with a blend of text, images and video content, but neither Yahoo nor Verizon were ever able to figure out how to make it a significant revenue-generating destination.
Verizon Media (formerly called Oath) last year decided to ban adult content from Tumblr — a last-gasp effort in trying to make it a safer place for advertising. The move prompted Tumblr’s visitors to drop by one-third. According to Automattic, it has no plans to reallow porn or other NSFW content on Tumblr.
“Today’s announcement is the culmination of a thoughtful, thorough and strategic process,” Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan said in a statement. He called Tumblr is a “marquee brand” that has become “home to many creative communities and fandoms.”
The Tumblr sale comes after Verizon began pruning the Yahoo-AOL portfolio last year. It sold photo-sharing site Flickr to SmugMug and offloaded Moviefone to Helios & Mathenson Analytics, the parent of struggling theater-subscription service MoviePass.
There’s a natural fit between Automattic and Tumblr, which are both aimed at letting individuals and businesses create and manage online communities geared around content.
“Tumblr is one of the web’s most iconic brands,” Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg added in a statement. “It is an essential venue to share new ideas, cultures and experiences, helping millions create and build communities around their shared interests.
Automattic’s businesses, in addition to WordPress.com, include WooCommerce, Jetpack, Simplenote, and Longreads.
Under Gowrappan, Verzion Media is focusing on news, sports, finance and lifestyle content — as well as utilities like mail — for nearly 1 billion consumers worldwide. Its brands include Yahoo, HuffPost, TechCrunch and AOL. Total Verizon Media revenue in the second quarter of 2019 was $1.8 billion, down 2.9%, as desktop ad sales continue to fall (an improvement over the group’s 7.2% drop in the year-earlier period). Gowrappan took over Verizon Media last fall with the exit of former CEO Tim Armstrong.
Back when Yahoo bought Tumblr, then-CEO Marissa Mayer had seen Tumblr, founded by David Karp in 2007, as a potential major source of new revenue growth and a way into the social-media space. But that never panned out and less than three years after buying it, Yahoo took impairment charges totaling $482 million for Tumblr.
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