The Tumblr community often refers to itself as the wild west of the Internet, and they are not wrong. A text post with over 70,000 notes sums it up best: “Tumblr is my favorite social media site because this place is literally uninhabited for celebrities. No verification system, no algorithms that promote their posts.” It is a completely lawless barren land for them.”
But like any social media company, Tumblr needs to keep itself afloat by continuing to share cryptic fan art, incomprehensible shitposts, and highly personal diaries hidden beneath “read more” buttons for its users. . Yesterday, Tumblr announced a limited beta test of its Post+ subscription feature, which – if all goes according to plan – will eventually let Tumblr users post paid content to subscribers that will cost them $3.99 per month, plus a monthly subscription fee. Pay $5.99, or $9.99.
Tumblr is far from the first social media platform to seek revenue in this way — Twitter is rolling out Super Follows and a Tip Jar feature, and this week, YouTube announced a tipping feature as well. Even Instagram is working on its own version of Twitter’s Super Followers that will let users create “exclusive stories.” But on a website with a community that prides itself as a “completely lawless wasteland” for anyone with a platform (save for Wil Wheaton and Neil Gaiman, who are just vibrating) The move towards paid material was not welcomed with open arms .
Monetization is a double-edged sword. It’s not a good idea for a Tumblr artist to link to a third-party Patreon or Ko-Fi site on their blog, where their most enthusiastic followers can access paywalled content or send them suggestions. So Post+ appears to be an obvious way for Tumblr to generate revenue – instead of directing followers to other websites, they could create a way for fans to support creators on their own platform while taking a 5% cut. Huh. This isn’t unreasonable, given that Twitter will take 3% of revenue from its new monetization tools, while video-focused platforms like YouTube and Twitch take 30% and 50%, respectively. But Tumblr is not Twitter, or YouTube, or Twitch. Unlike other platforms, Tumblr doesn’t allow you to see other people’s follower counts, and none of the accounts are verified. It’s not that easy to tell whether the person behind a popular post has 100 followers or 100,000 followers, and users like it that way. But Post+ changes that, giving bloggers an icon next to their username that looks like a Twitter blue check.
Tumblr this week rolled out Post+ to a group of hand-picked creators, including Kaijuno, an author and astrophysicist. The platform announced Post+ on a new blog specific to this product instead of its established staff blog, which users know to check out big announcements. So, as the most public user to whom access was granted, the 24-year-old blogger was the target of violent backlash from angry Tumblrwriters who didn’t want to turn their favorite social media site into a hypercapitalist hellscape. When Kaijuno received death threats for beta testing Post+, Tumblr employees intervened and condemned the harassment against Post+ users.
“We want to hear about what you love, what you love, and what worries you. Even if it’s not great. Tell us. We can take it,” Tumblr said on its staff blog Wrote. “What we will never accept is targeted harassment and threats from these creators since this afternoon. […] They’re just testing a feature.”
Before making their post, a representative of Tumblr employees reached out directly to Kaijuno to check on feedback on them, but the only thing Tumblr can do is to threaten a user in advance of using their product. It has been given
“I felt like the scapegoating lamb because they didn’t announce Post+ in advance and only a few people, which landed me in the crosshairs of a very angry user base when I was just trying to pay medical bills. was giving people the option to pay for content,” Cajuno told ClearTips. “I knew there would be some backlash because users hate any kind of change to Tumblr, but I thought that was the backlash. The brunt will be on employees, and beta testers will be spared most of it.”
Why do Tumblr users view monetization as such a threat? The question isn’t whether it’s worth supporting creators or not, but whether Tumblr is capable of hosting such a service. Several longtime, Tumblr users who spoke to ClearTips referenced an incident in late 2020 when people’s blogs were being hacked by spam bots who constantly posted ads for the Ray-Ban summer sale.
“Tumblr isn’t the best-coded website. It’s easy to break features,” Cajuno said. “I imagine anything you trust Tumblr with your financial information would have been opposed.”
Tumblr users are also concerned about the effects Post+ can have on privacy – in limited beta, Post+ users only have the ability to block people who have subscribed to their blogs if they are unsupported by Tumblr support. make contact. In cases of harassment by a client, it can leave a blogger vulnerable in a potentially dangerous situation.
“Ahead of our launch this fall for all US-based creators, Post+ will allow creators to block subscribers directly,” a Tumblr spokesperson told ClearTips.
Still, extremely online Gen Z-ers, who now make up 48% of Tumblr, know they can’t expect it to happen if the platform doesn’t charge enough money to pay for its staff and server fees. He will exist. In 2018, Tumblr lost about a third of its monthly page views after all NSFW content was banned — since then, the platform’s monthly traffic has remained relatively steady.
A former Tumblr employee told ClearTips that the Post+ build feature began as a Tip Jar. But Tumblr’s higher-ups — who don’t work directly with the community — redirected the project to create a paywalled subscription product.
“I think a tip jar would be a massive improvement,” said the creator behind the Tumblr blog Common-Horoscope. They make a living through Patreon, through the core audience they’ve developed on Tumblr, but they don’t find Post+ attractive for their business. “external services [like Patreon] There are more options, more benefits, better price points, and as a producer I get to choose how I present them to my audience. “
But the paid subscription service Tumblr stands out in the collective eye. For a site that thrives on fantasy, creators who create fan art and fanfiction worry that putting this derivative work behind a paywall — which Post+ encourages them to do — will land them in legal trouble. Even Archive of Our Own, a major fanfiction site, blocks its users from linking to sites like Patreon or Ko-Fi.
“Inherent monetization attracts businesses, corporate accounts, which are usually to make money first and provide content second,” Common-Horse said. “It changes the culture of a stage.”
In Tumblr, upset users are rallying to participate in Post+’s feedback survey to express their frustration to their followers. The staff welcomes it.
A Tumblr spokesperson told ClearTips, “As with any new product launch, we expect our users to have a healthy discussion about how this feature will change the dynamics of how people use Tumblr. ” “Not all of this feedback will be positive, and that’s okay. Constructive criticism fuels how we build products and ultimately makes Tumblr a better place.”
Tumblr’s outspoken community has been empowered for years to question whether it’s possible for a platform to establish new revenue streams in a way that feels organic. The security that Tumblr’s user base feels for the site — despite their lack of trust in employees — sets it apart from social media giants like Facebook, which can put ecommerce front and center without scrutiny. But even three years after the horrific porn ban, Tumblr seems difficult to grow without alienating the people who make the social network unique.
Platforms like Reddit and Discord are keeping afloat by selling digital goods, like coins, or special emoji to reward top posters. Every company’s financial needs are different, but post+ . Tumblr’s Choices to Monetize From Highlights the company’s lack of insight into the desires of its own community.