Tumblr Faces Staff Exodus: CEO Optimistic Despite Challenges Shake-Up at Tumblr

In a surprising turn of events, Tumblr, the microblogging platform owned by Automattic, is set to lose a significant portion of its product and marketing staff by the end of the year. The revelation came through a leaked internal memo posted by internet statesman Andy Baio on Thursday, shedding light on the restructuring plans at Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com.

The Memo’s Message: “You win or you learn.”

The leaked memo, titled “You win or you learn,” disclosed that most of the 139 employees in Tumblr’s product and marketing team, playfully referred to as “Bumblr,” will be reassigned to other divisions within Automattic. The company, which acquired Tumblr from Verizon’s media arm in 2019, expressed disappointment in the lack of expected results despite substantial efforts over the past 600+ person-years.

The memo emphasized that no team members would face a job loss, allowing them to choose from a ranked list of their top three preferred assignments within Automattic. The reassignment is seen as a strategic move to redirect efforts toward revenue-generating aspects of the company.

CEO’s Perspective: “Setting up Tumblr for Success”

Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg confirmed the authenticity of the leaked memo and acknowledged the challenges faced by the Tumblr team. Despite investing over $100 million and four years of dedicated work involving approximately 200 people, Mullenweg revealed that Tumblr had not achieved the anticipated revenue and usage peaks.

While expressing disappointment, Mullenweg praised the team’s performance and highlighted the valuable lessons learned during the process. He emphasized a shift in focus from surging growth to optimizing Tumblr’s efficiency, foreseeing a smaller and more focused Tumblr in 2024.

A Bumpy Journey from $1.1B Acquisition to Restructuring

Tumblr, founded by David Karp and Marco Arment in 2007, experienced a tumultuous journey from its $1.1 billion acquisition by Yahoo in 2013 to its subsequent struggles under Verizon’s ownership. Despite attempts to revitalize the platform, including a controversial adult content ban in 2018, Verizon eventually sold Tumblr to Automattic in 2019 for less than $20 million.

At the time of the acquisition, Mullenweg expressed optimism about maintaining Tumblr’s iconic status and integrating it with other Automattic products. The recent restructuring suggests a reevaluation of strategies to ensure Tumblr’s sustainability and growth.

CEO’s Positive Outlook and Future Plans

Regarding concerns about Tumblr’s future, Mullenweg remains optimistic about the platform’s unique value, particularly in the artistic and supportive community. He acknowledged Tumblr’s cultural significance, citing its appeal to Taylor Swift superfans, government agencies, and various artists who found their start on the platform.

Mullenweg revealed that despite financial challenges, Tumblr app downloads had seen a notable increase, and a significant redesign in summer 2023 aimed to enhance user experience. The CEO sees Tumblr not merely as a successor to Twitter but as a distinct platform catering to a diverse audience, including a vibrant LGBTQ+ community.

Looking Ahead: A Smaller, Focused Tumblr in 2024

As Tumblr faces this significant staff reshuffle, the company is gearing up to transform from a growth-focused approach to a more streamlined and efficient operation. Mullenweg’s vision for 2024 involves a smaller yet more focused Tumblr, drawing inspiration from successful social and messaging platforms that achieved greatness with smaller teams.

Despite the challenges, Mullenweg and his team are determined to support Tumblr’s artistic and supportive essence, ensuring its survival and prosperity in the ever-evolving landscape of online platforms. As the microblogging giant enters this new chapter, only time will tell if the strategic shift will indeed lead to Tumblr’s resurgence and sustained success.