Automattic’s bargain-bin Tumblr deal plugs right into the WordPress business model
Tumblr has been an millstone around the neck of its owners, first Yahoo and later Oath and Verizon Media, pretty much since it was acquired in 2013. They never found an answer to the question that new owner Automattic is presumably about to take a crack at: how to make this unruly erstwhile porn factory turn a profit.
Amazingly, the secret technique that Tumblr may have been waiting for was good old-fashioned business sense: make something people want, then charge them a good price for it. Tumblr may fit into the WordPress model and do just this quite a change from the indirect monetization attempts of the past decade.
The Yahoo acquisition under the stewardship of Marissa Mayer seems to have been made with the assumption, naive in retrospect but incredibly common in that era, that you could buy an audience, plunk some ads in the product, then sit back and let the money roll in.
But beyond doing that, Yahoo never really did anything with Tumblr apart from adding a few features and expanding ads. And for a while growth was good and the network flourished, even rivaling Instagram on some metrics.