Yahoo Bought Tumblr For $1.1 Billion In 2013. The Owner Of WordPress Just Paid $3M

Written by Dana Sanchez
Image: Esther Vargas/Flickr

Tumblr, a once-booming-though-unprofitable online startup, has been bought by the owner of its former rival, WordPress, for a tiny fraction of its $1.1 billion sales price of six years ago.

A free microblogging and social networking website, Tumblr hosts 450 million blogs where users can upload photos, music and art in short-form. Users can follow others’ blogs and make their blogs private.

Automattic Inc, the owner of online publishing tool WordPress, paid $3 million for the acquisition, according to the Washington Post.

While unprofitable, Tumblr was once considered a major player in the social media space, Axios reported. It was founded in 2007 by David Karp, a high school dropout who said he had wanted to set up a blog but didn’t think the traditional, long-form formats like WordPress were the right fit.

Tumblr was acquired by Yahoo for $1.1 billion in 2013, before becoming part of Verizon through the acquisition of Yahoo in 2017. Verizon made no secret of wanting to sell it.

Pornhub, a Canadian pornographic video-sharing site, was the only bidder to show interest in public in buying Tumblr.

Tumblr has faced backlash over the years for not properly monitoring pornographic content, which Verizon banned in 2018, Axios reported. Automattic’s CEO Matt Mullenweg told the Wall Street Journal that he plans to keep the ban on porn.

The Tumblr platform grew popular due to its unique set of demographics, with users expressing their individuality from a different perspective, Z6Mag reported.

“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.

The acquisition is Automattic’s largest. Tumblr has about 200 staffers.

After it was bought by Yahoo, Tumblr failed to generate meaningful revenue and the company wrote down the site’s value by $230 million in 2016. 

Verizon has decided to focus on subscription and original content through its Yahoo and AOL web properties such as HuffPost, TechCrunch, feminist media brand, Makers, and celebrity-interview site, Build, Z6Mag reported.

Automattic is “the perfect partner” for Tumblr, Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan said in a statement. Its “expertise and track record will unlock new and exciting possibilities for Tumblr and its users.”

Tumblr and WordPress share common founding principles, said Tumblr CEO Jeff D’Onofrio. “The plane has landed on a friendly runway. Now it is time to freshen up the jets.”

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Tumblr’s app was temporarily removed from the Apple App Store after it was accused of insufficiently monitoring pornographic content. Pornhub discussed wanting to reverse the site’s Verizon-imposed porn ban, and restore it to a place where users can freely express themselves.

Twitter users commented on what a bargain the $3 million sales price is.

“So the price of a condo in SF?” @mscccc tweeted.

“They could have gotten more from a gofundme of tumblr users who just want their porn back,” @aspirational_no tweeted.