Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
Verizon has agreed to sell Tumblr to WordPress owner Automattic Inc. for an undisclosed amount, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Verizon, which first acquired Tumblr in 2017 after it purchased Yahoo, started to explore a sale earlier this year. Automattic reportedly bought Tumblr for less than $3 million, according to Axios, a stunning drop in value from the $1.1 billion Yahoo paid for it in 2013.
“Tumblr is a marquee brand that has started movements, allowed for true identities to blossom and become home to many creative communities and fandoms,” Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan said in a statement. “We are proud of what the team has accomplished and are happy to have found the perfect partner in Automattic, whose expertise and track record will unlock new and exciting possibilities for Tumblr and its users.”
Although it makes sense. Tumblr was once a hugely influential force in the blogging and social media sphere, but it become less so under Yahoo and then Verizon’s ownership. Meanwhile, platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube moved to fill the void and become much larger cultural forces as a result. Still, Tumblr does have a very active and dedicated community.
That became very apparent to Verizon leadership last year when Verizon decided to ban adult content on the platform back in December. Tumblr acted as a safe haven for many LGBTQ members who used the platform to explore and express their sexuality and to find an online community that shared those interests. The decision to ban all types of adult content led many to boycott the site, and the ban alienated a significant portion of Tumblr’s user base. There are no plans to reverse those decisions, Automattic Inc.’s CEO Matt Mullenweg told the Journal. Instead, Tumblr will act as as a “complementary” site to WordPress.
“We’re not going to change any of that.”
“It’s just fun,” Mullenweg told the Journal. “We’re not going to change any of that.”
One part of being a complement to WordPress is possibly sharing services and functionality, according to the report. Tumblr has a mobile interface that executives could use to leverage WordPress’ own mobile platform. It’s unclear what other services the two companies may share, but considering both are blogging platforms to some extent, there’s room for experimentation.
David Karp, who founded Tumblr in 2007, left the company in November 2017. He didn’t mention his reasoning at the time, but he wrote in a personal blog that he had faith in the company’s future. “I beg you to understand that my decision comes after months of reflection on my personal ambitions,” Karp wrote at the time, “and at no cost to my hopefulness for Tumblr’s future or the impact I know it can have.”
Update August 12th, 4:50pm ET: The story has been updated to include a report from Axios that suggests the sale was for less than $20 million.
Update 2, August 12th 6:40pm ET: The story has been updated to include an update from Axios that suggests the sale was for less $3 million.
Update 3, August 12th 7:10pm ET: The story has been updated to include a statement from Verizon.