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Will Yahoo be good for Tumblr?

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.

This week, we asked: How do you think Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr will affect the blogging platform?

  • It will hurt it: 40.2%
  • It won’t make a difference: 20.59%
  • It will improve it: 20.59%
  • Not sure: 18.63%

Most SmartBrief on Social Media readers say they don’t think Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr is likely to improve the platform. I can’t say I blame them. The history of social tools is littered with failed acquisitions, as large corporate parents often fail to understand what made that shiny startup successful in the first place — see Yahoo’s purchase of Flickr for starters.

Readers’ concerns that Tumblr will change, most likely by introducing ads in a serious way, are well founded. But I think I can offer readers two points of consolation. First, Tumblr was most likely going to change anyway. Tumblr’s CEO David Karp was already walking back his early inflammatory statements about ads — the network had to make money somehow if it was going to survive. Second, Yahoo is at least aware of the pitfalls it faces in managing a network like Tumblr. Knowing you have a problem is the first step to fixing it.

The real question, however, isn’t how Tumblr will change, but how Tumblr users will feel about these changes. Tumblr’s continued success doesn’t depend on ads; it depends on building an audience that will make any ad efforts worthwhile.