To Blog or to Tumblr, That is the Question

It's not a matter of doing too much, it's the ability to do things that matter. 

And mattering the most? Oh, isn't that the end goal of everything? 

I'm not talking about the Google search result answer to the question of "the answer to life and the universe and everything." No, no, no. Something much more pressing, now that Marissa is the person pressing and Google is literally the one searching. 

The question is; to blog or to Tumblr? In a world where increasingly content is the commerce, stories are the new company culture and of course, the more omnipotent digital data grows, the more of a need to put the social back into social media just to make sure we are are still alive; the more powerful the art of writing. The pen, indeed, is mightier than the sword.

It's because the craft of story-spinning is the thread that ties us all together. It's the act of living, prospering, struggling, loving and dying that hides behind words written mostly by human beings. Through vulnerability and expression, stories can connect where a physical connection appears impossible. That's a powerful notion in a world where more people text than talk on the phone anymore.

In the world of writing, there are blogs and then there is Tumblr. Google's Blogger and the content management system-turned publisher Wordpress are the two leading blog publishers. For a total comparison between those two, check out this nice article by Tim Brookes.

For this article, we are comparing Google's Blogger platform and the general act of blogging vs Tumblr, a recent Yahoo! acquisition.

Google has certainly had it's fair share of beta-gone-bad projects; Google Wave, Google Buzz, Jaiku, Google Reader and a few more.

Tumblr and Yahoo! have been in the news for their little May December love affair; a hipster high-school dropout marriage to the original digital media company. The wedding cost a cool $1.1 billion, but it's not the first for Yahoo!

Yahoo, like Google, has a colorful past and experts predict that won't change, hinting at more acquisitions (like Hulu maybe) and I'm waiting for MySpace, Pinterest, Wanelo, Evernote, Skype, Keep, Path, Tango and Reddit to get gobbled up. But I digress. 

Yahoo has long list of failed acquisitions, but my personal favorite is a $5.7 billion (with a B, people, with a B!) purchase of internet radio company Broadcast.com from a lawyer named Tod and his friend named Mark Cuban. Yes, that Mark Cuban. Both men ran laughing all the way to the bank. As BILLIONAIRES. Ugh. It's obviously a good look for Mark.

Tumblr doesn't have such a dramatic past, but they are relative infants in this mighty struggle for digital power. Let's give them some time to really screw it all up, okay? Plus, they have stayed small and true as they grew. So that's pretty stinking cute. Tumblr was founded in 2007 and has barely tip-toed into the world of paid advertising, so we should expect some changes to that business model, considering they reported revenue of $13m in 2012, compared to $25m in operational expenses for the same year. Financial reports detail an expected revenue of $100m for 2013, so it's no wonder Yahoo is jumping for joy at the opportunity to play a decent role in either making that happen or making sure that doesn't happen. Either way, Tumblr plays host to over 113 million active blogs, so they are doing something that matters to many.

Blogger was originally founded by Pyra Labs, out of the west coast and initially did not have any sort of monetization strategy. Google acquired Pyra in 2003 and immediately went into monetization mode; creating ad services opportunities, paid service ad-on features and more. The basic premise of a free blogging platform improved too, as Google was able to take on some of the expenses for premium services that Pyra had started charging for. Like all good start-ups gone corporate, Google does not publicly announce details around individual business stats and instead files overall Google data; like how much the entire company posted as profit and other comprehensively-cloudy data like you see below. Don't let that fool you; Tumblr (and now Yahoo!) is giving Google a run for it's money. Pretty funny if you think about where Marissa came and where she wants to go...

Wordpress is another microblogging publisher tool (father company is Automattic) that allows for web server hosting (unlike the Google Blogger platform) but is smaller and has more ad-on pay-for-premium services. It has two things going for it right now: the fact that it's not a corporate-owned machine and that it was founded on a designer's appeal vs an ad-serving platform. Plus, it's pretty small with less than 200 employees compared to Google's 37,544 total full-time headcount as filed with last years' financial statement (53k if you count Motorola Mobile headcount, too). Wordpress has nearly 70 million sites on its platform and welcomes more than 376 million unique users a month, adding nearly 50 million new posts every month. More Wordpress stats can be found here. Of course, the same data is not available for Google, but you can check out their investor relations financial statement here.

By the numbers, the question of "To blog or to Tumblr," looks a little like this to me:



It's a little bit of a David vs Goliath comparison, but please keep in mind that Google's data is comprehensive data; for all of Google, not just their blogger platform that has a totally integrated ad-services model baked into all their products and services. It's what makes Google great but also makes an opportunity for all their unlikely competition...like Tumblr.

So while the question may indeed be to choose between blogging or tumblelogging, it's no longer a question of whether or not there is value in user-generated content. UGC is the only commerce. The real question is, "How much will Yahoo change how Tumblr operates?"

That answer may answer the question of what platform to choose; either Blogger, Wordpress or Tumblr. Or perhaps the answer really is 42.




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