tumblr and its Long Tail


The term “Long Tail” got popularised by Chris Anderson mentioning Amazon, Yahoo! and Apple are businesses which apply this strategy in his article. To put it shortly, Long Tail theory is about:

As the cost of production and distribution fall, the focus on mainstream products and markets at the head of demand curve has shifted toward a huge number of niches in the tails

The benefits of applying long tail theory include: it gives organisation the ability to target potential micro-market while reduces the cost of distribution, inventory and sales, and provides infinite shelf space. It also helps contents producer to reach wider audience and increase customer choice.

Being as a rapidly growing microblogging and social networking platform, Tumblr has many competitive advantages over other similar services such as: it allows users to write longer posts than Twitter and delicious, and most importantly, in an intuitive, easy and quick way.

tumblr001Established in 2007, Tumblr has experienced steadily growth and the dramatic jump happened between 2010 and 2011, led Tumblr to achieve over 110 million blogs with 72.9 million posts were made everyday.

How Tumblr applies Long Tail Theory?

Tumblr was built on the driving force of Long Tail:

The ecosystem of Tumblr is different from other Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, where users interact with others by their real identities. Most of tumblr’s users regard the platform as a stage for expressing themselves publicly. With the help of tumblr’s content policy, miscellaneous categories made Tumblr a place for discovering one’s interests without many limitations. According the the statistic data measure by Quantcast, the major audience group is young adult (aged 18-34), and the most common interests are: humor, adult content, fashion and news. While the tail part of interests which are not in popular demand still makes massive contribution to tumblr’s daily traffic, the key is how to make the tail fat and thick.


Customer self service + Participation architecture = Reduce cost + High Customer Satisfaction

The success of tumblr is greatly based on user generated contents and its diversity to meet different customer expectations.  Users receive a lot of freedom on the creation of contents and controlling their accounts without much support, while tumblr can enjoy better customer satisfaction with lower cost of account management.

My suggestions for tumblr:
1. Optimise yourself with tons of key words for Search Engine (SEO)

Though tumblr has more than 40% direct traffic, in order to reach mote potential users, it is better to have the related posts or blogs shown on the results of major search engines. Compare to other blogging platforms like WordPress or Blogger, tumblr’s blogs indeed receive less favor from Google, Bing and Yahoo!. Tumblr’s blogs and posts are only visible when “tumblr” is included as keyword.

2. Dig into adaptive personalisation and customisation

In order to boost the interaction among users, deepen existing connections and expose active users to more potential followers, tumblr should launch the adaptive personalisation approach by adding customised suggestions like:  “you may be interested in this post/blog” or “users who follow this blog also like…”

3. Be open to encompass new contents, and stay open (Update!)

Tumblr was acquired by Yahoo! for approximately $1.1 billion on 20 May 2013. Though Yahoo! pledged not to screw up tumblr deal, the acquisition still received negative responses from tumblr users. “In order to keep the richness and breadth of the contents on tumblr and allow Yahoo! to reach more users”, CEO Marissa Mayer suggested that “tumblr’s porn can stay“. It is no doubt the best decision for coping with angry users at the early stage of merging tumblr into Yahoo!’s culture, however, as a nature of user generated contents, it seems unavoidably every social media platform will get dirty with time. How to keep the niche market growing within ethical and legal constraints but without losing specific user groups is definitely one of the biggest challenges for all the social media platforms.

Reference list:

* Usage Analysis: Tumblr, Brendan Smith, Apr 16, 2013
* Oh, The Places Tumblr Can Go, Ingrid Lunden, Jan 02, 2013
* Tumblr: David Karp’s $800 Million Art Project, Jeff Bercovici, Feb 01 2013
* Tenth Grade Tech Trends, Josh Miller, Dec 29, 2012
* Web 2.0 and the Long Tail, Chris Anderson, Oct 01, 2005
* Microblogging update: Tumblr feed, Chris Anderson, Sep 04, 2008
* 6 Ways to Leverage the Long Tail in Your Marketing, Prashant Kaw, May 5, 2009