Tumblr, the one-time darling of social media, sold for a whopping $1.1 billion in 2013. On Monday, in perhaps the latest mark of its decline, the site was reportedly bought for just $3 million.
Twitter didn’t miss a beat in pointing out that Tumblr’s reported sales price was less than that of this bluefin tuna. BuzzFeed propped up a list of seven condos you can buy in New York for the same price as Tumblr.
So how did this happen? How did Tumblr – once a booming online start-up – get swallowed up by the owner of WordPress, another blogging giant and Tumblr’s former rival?
Let’s start with Tumblr’s early days. The site launched in 2007 under David Karp, who dropped out of high school at age 15 and got Tumblr up and running when he was 20. In a 2011 interview, Karp said he had wanted to set up a blog but didn’t think the traditional, long-form formats like WordPress were the right fit.
“I had all these cool videos, links and projects that I wanted to put out there, and I had a really hard time doing it,” Karp told .net magazine in 2011. “I wanted to do something different. I was determined not to compete with WordPress.”
The site picked up steam as popular bloggers and whole universities moved content over to Tumblr. Musicians, photographers and writers followed suit. At the start of 2010, Tumblr was landing 100 million impressions every month, according to Karp’s 2011 interview. By the end of the year, it had reached 3 billion. The platform also caught on in the fashion world, and Tumblr eventually hired a fashion director and began sending bloggers to high-profile events like New York Fashion Week.
The popularity paid off. In 2013, Yahoo bought Tumblr for $1.1 billion. But Yahoo ultimately wrote off much of Tumblr’s value. Verizon took over Tumblr in 2017 when it acquired Yahoo.
Then, this week, Automattic, which owns WordPress, took over Tumblr for an undisclosed amount and brought on about 200 staffers. Automattic did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the sales price.
Automattic Chief Executive Matt Mullenweg told the Wall Street Journal that he has long been a Tumblr user and sees the site as complementary to WordPress.
“It’s just fun,” Mullenweg said of Tumblr. “We’re not going to change any of that.”
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Rachel Siegel