Some Observations on Tumblr and News

Late last year, hoards of media brands jumped on the Tumblr wagon after reading this NYT article. Since then, media orgs have experimented with, tumbled, reblogged, liked and replied to breaking news, funny pictures, media insider jokes (with a dash of snark) and everything else under the sun. At Yahoo! News, I decided that our Tumblr would be used for videos, pictures, and buzzy stories rather than hard breaking news. Here are some of my observations so far (your mileage may vary):

The viralness of Tumblr
I’ve personally had a Tumblr account since June of 08 but I’ve been experimenting with Tumblr for Yahoo! News since November and today, one of my Tumbles (?) particularly stood out because it spread very quickly. I posted this picture of protestors holding up a banner during a demonstration against Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi outside Downing Street, in London. Within an hour, it was reblogged on Tumblr about 100x. As I write this post, it’s been about 9 hours and there have been 1000+ notes (notes = Tumblr ‘likes’ and ‘reblogs’ combined).

Understand the Tumblr community
Maybe it’s my background in marketing, but I firmly believe that you should always know who your community is online. Follow them, check out their profiles as you grow and most importantly, check out your stats if you have them. (Unfortunately, Tumblr currently doesn’t supply any demographic breakdown or audience stats so I’d suggest paying close attention and eyeballing it). Another basic tip: study the platform as a whole and understand its demographic. Experiment with content and you’ll start to understand what does well. What does well on our Facebook or Twitter account doesn’t do well on our Tumblr account.

The hot topic in social media right now is Libya and the deadly anti-government protests. From what I have observed, Tumblr is very trend-driven community — creating trends, spreading memes and driving them. In my experimentation, I’ve posted snippets of news that were interesting but not trending and those updates receive a luke-warm response. My tip here would be: know what’s trending on Tumblr and ride the wave.

Tumblr’s shift into news
Last July, Tumblr hired Mark Coatney, former Editor at Newsweek. Coatney was the voice of Newsweeks’ Tumblr account and now helps media companies understand and embrace Tumblr. Tumblr has also rolled out tags, editor guidelines, a news leaderboard & topic discovery. These features are small steps towards engaging the Tumblr community with media orgs and surfacing the most engaging news of the day. Yahoo! News is currently featured on as a top contributor to #Libya tags which brings visibility to our account and post:

Those are my observations thus far and as I previously stated, your mileage may vary. Every news org or brand will have a different community and rates of audience engagement. With that being said, Tumblr is proving to be a robust platform for curating and discovering the news in real-time and I am excited to see what other goodies they’ll be adding for media organizations. One thing I’d really like to see is some kind of analytics dashboard that measures impressions, engagement rate, click through and sentiment. Until then, Tumblr “notes” are a good indicator of how content is received.

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