Verizon is seeking a buyer for Tumblr, the blogging platform it acquired along with other Yahoo assets in 2017. The Wall Street Journal reports that Verizon has approached other companies in recent weeks that could be potential new homes for Tumblr. The platform hosts 465.4 million blogs and 172 billion posts, according to its about page. The Journal notes that the sale process “is ongoing” and might not result in any transaction.
On Thursday evening, Pornhub VP Corey Price claimed in a statement to BuzzFeed News that his company is “extremely interested” in buying Tumblr and “very much looking forward to one day restoring it to its former glory with NSFW content.” The company did not say whether it has actually made any legitimate offer to Verizon, however.
Price is referring to a major change implemented late last year, when Tumblr took the controversial step of banning porn on its platform. The company has been using AI to detect and automatically block images and videos that contain certain adult content. Existing posts containing porn were made private and are no longer publicly accessible. The move resulted in harsh criticism toward the company and a steep decline in web traffic, but Tumblr has given no indication that it plans to reverse its decision. Pornhub quickly sought to attract those users that Tumblr drove away.
Tumblr itself was acquired by Yahoo for $1.1 billion in 2013 during the Marissa Mayer era as an attempt to revitalize and steer new, younger users to the sinking internet staple. But Yahoo never really knew what to do with Tumblr, and the micro-blogging site — with its millions of personal blogs and some of the weirdest, best things on the internet — did nothing to reverse Yahoo’s business fortunes.
Verizon finalized its $4.5 billion acquisition of Yahoo in 2017, which led to it taking ownership of Tumblr. Tumblr is currently part of Verizon Media Group (formerly Oath), the umbrella brand for digital properties that Verizon ultimately controlled after its two buyouts of AOL and Yahoo. The Journal notes that Verizon’s attempt to offload Tumblr comes as it tries to make the best of its collective media business after a $4.6 billion write-down last year, which was essentially an acknowledgement that both deals had been a mistake. Verizon sold one of its Yahoo assets, Flickr, to SmugMug about a year ago. Guru Gowrappan, the executive put in charge of Verizon Media Group last year, later criticized that sell-off as too time-consuming without enough reward.
But publicly, Verizon executives remain committed to the properties despite layoffs that have affected some of the sites and entertainment divisions. “I hope there is no doubt about our commitment to Verizon Media Group and how it fits into our whole strategy,” CEO Hans Vestberg said earlier this week, according to the Journal. Tumblr, it seems, is not necessarily part of that strategy. But now the question becomes whether there’s even a viable buyer for the platform in 2019 that won’t let it slowly wither away.
Update May 2nd 5:30PM ET: The article has been updated to include comment from Pornhub.