Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tumbling for Yahoo!

So, back on May 20th, I was one of the folks quoted on the site to answer Mike Daly's Today's Burning Question feature, on the implication's of Yahoo's acquisition of Tumblr.  Yup, there I was, smack in the middle of all those CEOs, VPs, and other business types, one lone academic.  So how do I stack up? Well, you can go over there and compare: Today’s Burning Question: Implications of Yahoo’s Tumblr Acquisition?  Or you can stay right here and just read what I have to say.

And let me just preface this by saying that I have never used Tumblr as a blogging platform. As longtime readers of Blog Time Passing know, I'm a longtime user of Blogger or Blogspot—I wish they'd just make up their minds, or just call it BloGoogle, or Bloogle.  

But I have come across some Tumblr blogs, and having taught classes about blogging, I've had students whose prior experience is with Tumblr. And when it comes to the great, honorable tradition of blogging, well, Tumblr strikes me as appealing to folks who are not so much interested in writing blog posts as they are in posting images and links. 

Now link logs or blogs, or filter blogs, go back a long way, but to some extent Twitter took over that function, and status updates on social media more generally, while Pinterest has taken over in the image reposting department.  But Tumblr still isn't bad as an entry level blogging platform before moving on to more serious blogging over here, or via WordPress.

And then there's Yahoo! Good old Yahoo! I remember back in the 90s when theirs was the primary search engine I'd turn to, and they took over GeoCities which was a kind of proto-social medium. Yahoo! was cool once upon a time, and heck, I still have a Yahoo! backpack that I got as a gift, complete with padding for shlepping around my laptop. I still have it, but I don't use it anymore. Not that there's anything wrong with it. I just got a really nice Targus computer bag as a gift, and been using that instead. Although it is getting a little old now, might be due for a replacement one of these days...

Anyway, I do remember when Yahoo pretty much displaced AOL as the center of the online universe, a position it held on to for a few years before being pushed aside by the twin forces of Google and social media.  But they have held on better than AOL did, and better than MySpace and Friendster, not the least through the acquisition of Flickr in 2005, a site they recently revamped. And it sure is interesting to watch this industry go through its ups and downs, the volatility is amazing.

So anyway, without further ado, let me present to you:  

ADOTAS – Today we’ve solicited comments from industry leaders in response to the following Burning Question: 
“What will be the implications of Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr?”

And my response:

“Like AOL and MySpace, Yahoo was once a dominant force in the new media landscape, but was unable to adapt to the fast-changing media environment, falling behind and being displaced by other sites and services, Google in particular.  As a consequence, Yahoo also lost its cachet, its coolness factor, and became old hat, albeit one that retained a significant following, and a good amount of resources.  The comeback game is not an easy one, however, as MySpace is discovering, and rather than trying to relaunch itself, Yahoo seems to be following AOL’s lead, as AOL’s acquisition of The Huffington Post arrested AOL’s decline, and started to turn its fortunes around.  Of course, picking up Twitter would be the ultimate prize, but if Google and Facebook failed to acquire that microblogging platform, Yahoo certainly wouldn’t have any luck in doing so.  But Tumblr is most definitely a valuable asset, and a good fit for Yahoo as it provides a blogging platform and a service for personal expression that has been missing from Yahoo since they eliminated GeoCities in the US. While not as popular as Google’s Blogger or WordPress, Tumblr bloggers are notable for not being as “writerly” or text-oriented as other bloggers, so it does resemble Twitter to some degree, and is certainly more accessible and less intimidating than the other types of blogs. Tumblr blogs tend to be more image-oriented as well, making it a precursor to Pinterest, the platform that quickly rose to the number three spot in social media behind Facebook and Twitter.  And as bandwidth has become less and less of an issue, the emphasis in new media has shifted from text to pictures and audiovisual formats, which has much to do with Tumblr’s popularity. So while Tumblr won’t rocket Yahoo to the top of the heap, it will make the service current and relevant once again, not just an interface offered such “old-fashioned” services as email, discussion groups, news feeds, and the ubiquitous advertising.  The latter is key, because Yahoo desperately needs to attract eyeballs, and its failure to hop onto the social media bandwagon meant that it missed out on the bonanza of user-generated content that brings in big audiences.  Tumblr will change all that, and may be the start of a reversal of fortunes, but it will take the acquisition of a video service such as Vimeo to really turn things around.”  – Dr. Lance Strate, Professor of Communication and Media Studies and Director of the Professional Studies in New Media program at Fordham University.

And there you have it, my 2¢, nothing to do tumblesaults over, or shout yahoo, but maybe of some mild interest to a few of you out there.