WordPress and Less, Tumblr and Micro-Publishing

Blogs were once the outlet of choice for people who wanted to express themselves online. But with the rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter, they are losing their allure for many people — particularly the younger generation.

So says the NYT, based on a Pew report.

Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family.

I saw the article via a blog post, albeit one so short that it wouldn’t have been out of place on Facebook or Twitter. The post was by Toni, CEO of Automattic, the firm that runs WordPress.com (among other things).

The guy who put the Matt in Automattic responded to the article at a more traditional blog post length. He pointed out the big picture: “people of all ages are becoming more and more comfortable publishing online.” He also described the various tools publishing as complementary.

Tumblr is a particularly interesting publishing tool in this context, so it was good that an interview with Tumblr founder David Karp went online today (at TechCrunch). He admires WordPress as a tool for “long-form publishing.” David founded Tumblr for people whose dislike of writing presents a barrier to blogging.

But don’t Twitter and Facebook lower those barriers even further? They do, but they lack a strong expressive identity, argues Karp… Tumblr, in contrast, is built to be a place you can be proud to call your online home. It’s very design-oriented and you can customize your Tumblr to reflect your personality.

I think that’s a pretty good characterization of Tumblr, or at least a good motive for founding it and for using it. Meanwhile, I’m posting this on WordPress, which will automatically tell my Twitter followers about it. Hey Twitter types, and others, thank you for reading this opus.

Tumbling Toward Freemium

Tumblr is a microblogging service (which I first covered about two years ago). It’s recently become freemium: the basic service remains free of charge; there is a cost for premium features.

I’m very interested the freemium model and how it is implemented. So are others, if the excellent discussion on my recent post on freemium at WordPress.com is anything to go by.

Posts on Tumblr premium themes at Mashable and at TechCrunch are positive. Comments following each of those posts is more mixed, with some indicating a preference for rival microblogging service Posterous.

At Tumblr’s own site, there was of course a blog post about the new themes. “They cost between $9 and $49 (most of which goes right into the pockets of the brilliant designers behind them).” Some theme designers also posted about their new premium Tumblr themes (e.g., WooThemes).

I think that the price is for use of a theme at Tumblr forever (but someone please correct me if it’s on some other basis, such as annual). The Tumblr theme garden now includes a premium plot.

I looked for the Tumblr support forum to gauge the reaction of the Tumblr community. I couldn’t find one, so I looked in the FAQ. No mention there. To my surprise, no mention either of the ad policy, since that’s one of the perennially hot topics at WordPress.com.

I filled out the email support form with my questions. Email support is impressively prominent at the Tumblr site, and the response was equally impressive in terms of speed and of actually answering my questions. There is no official support forum. AdSense is allowed, with a couple of caveats.

In closing, I’ll throw out a more general thought about freemium: or rather, I’ll post it, hope for comments on it, then do some more thinking. There are two types of freemium service.

  1. Here’s a free service. By the way, here are some premium features you can pay for and use if you want.
  2. Here’s a service. You pay to use it. But here’s a very limited version, so that you can try it out for free.

Most freemium services are of the first type. Of firms providing the second type of freemium service, the most prominent is 37signals.

I welcome your comments on this post, on the freemium model, and on how it is used at Tumblr and elsewhere.

Case for Tumblr

Ruhi recommends that you Get Yourself a Tumblelog Today. I recommend her post, for the following reasons.

  • Clear characterization of what a tumblelog is, and, in particular, what Tumblr is good for. Typical posts are “shorter than traditional blog posts, but longer than your Twitter updates” (although, like me she doesn’t much care for Twitter).
  • Good case for using Tumblr. She positions it as a complement to, rather than substitute for, WordPress and similar tools.
  • Interesting set of comments on the business side of Tumblr and, more generally, on startups and VC.

I have two tumblelogs.

  • In one, the typical entry is an image, with a couple of links and sometimes some brief remarks. Andrew’s Art Cart is essentially a wish list, where each wish is for a print that someone might buy for me.
  • In the other, the typical entry is a widget that isn’t allowed here at WordPress.com. Widget Way is very much a complement to Changing Way.