Tumblr’s next step forward with Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg – gpgmail


After months of rumors, Verizon finally sold off Tumblr for a reported $3 million — a fraction of what Yahoo paid for the once might blogging service back in 2013.

The media conglomerate (which also owns gpgmail) was clearly never quite sure what to do with the property after gobbling it up as part of its 2016 Yahoo acquisition. All parties has since come to the conclusion that Tumblr simply wasn’t a good fit under either the Verizon or Yahoo umbrella, amounting to a $1.1 billion mistake.

For Tumblr, however, the story may still have a happy ending. By all accounts, its new home at Automattic is far better fit. The service joins a portfolio that includes popular blogging service WordPress.com, spam filtering service Akismet and long-form storytelling platform, Longreads.

In an interview, this week, Automattic founder and CEO Matt Mullenweg discussed Tumblr’s history and the impact of the poorly received adult content restrictions. He also shed some light on where Tumblr goes from here, including a potential increased focused on multimedia such as podcasting.

Brian Heater: I’m curious how [your meetings with Tumblr staff] went. What’s the feeling on the team right now? What are the concerns? How are people feeling about the transition?


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Snapchat beats a dead horse – gpgmail


Hey. This is Week-in-Review, where I give a heavy amount of analysis and/or rambling thoughts on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on gpgmail this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.

Last week, I talked about how Netflix might have some rough times ahead as Disney barrels towards it.


The big story

There is plenty to be said about the potential of smart glasses. I write about them at length for gpgmail and I’ve talked to a lot of founders doing cool stuff. That being said, I don’t have any idea what Snap is doing with the introduction of a third-generation of its Spectacles video sunglasses.

The first-gen were a marketing smash hit, their sales proved to be a major failure for the company which bet big and seemingly walked away with a landfill’s worth of the glasses.

Snap’s latest version of Spectacles were announced in Vogue this week, they are much more expensive at $380 and their main feature is that they have two cameras which capture images in light depth which can lead to these cute little 3D boomerangs. One one hand, it’s nice to see the company showing perseverance with a tough market, on the other it’s kind of funny to see them push the same rock up the hill again.

Snap is having an awesome 2019 after a laughably bad 2018, the stock has recovered from record lows and is trading in its IPO price wheelhouse. It seems like they’re ripe for something new and exciting, not beautiful yet iterative.

The $150 Spectacles 2 are still for sale, though they seem quite a bit dated-looking at this point. Spectacles 3 seem to be geared entirely towards women, and I’m sure they made that call after seeing the active users of previous generations, but given the write-down they took on the first-generation, something tells me that Snap’s continued experimentation here is borne out of some stubbornness form Spiegel and the higher-ups who want the Snap brand to live in a high fashion world and want to be at the forefront of an AR industry that seems to have already moved onto different things.

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On to the rest of the week’s news.

tumblr phone sold

Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context:

  • WordPress buys Tumblr for chump change
    Tumblr, a game-changing blogging network that shifted online habits and exited for $1.1 billion just changed hands after Verizon (which owns gpgmail) unloaded the property for a reported $3 million. Read more about this nightmarish deal here.
  • Trump gives American hardware a holiday season pass on tariffs 
    The ongoing trade war with China generally seems to be rough news for American companies deeply intertwined with the manufacturing centers there, but Trump is giving U.S. companies a Christmas reprieve from the tariffs, allowing certain types of hardware to be exempt from the recent rate increases through December. Read more here.
  • Facebook loses one last acquisition co-founder
    This week, the final remnant of Facebook’s major acquisitions left the company. Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell announced he was leaving. Now, Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus are all helmed by Facebook leadership and not a single co-founder from the three companies remains onboard. Read more here.

GAFA Gaffes

How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of badness:

  1. Facebook’s turn in audio transcription debacle:
    [Facebook transcribed users’ audio messages without permission]
  2. Google’s hate speech detection algorithms get critiqued:
    [Racial bias observed in hate speech detection algorithm from Google]
  3. Amazon has a little email mishap:
    [Amazon customers say they received emails for other people’s orders]

Adam Neumann (WeWork) at gpgmail Disrupt NY 2017

Extra Crunch

Our premium subscription service had another week of interesting deep dives. My colleague Danny Crichton wrote about the “tech” conundrum that is WeWork and the questions that are still unanswered after the company filed documents this week to go public.

…How is margin changing at its older locations? How is margin changing as it opens up in places like India, with very different costs and revenues? How do those margins change over time as a property matures? WeWork spills serious amounts of ink saying that these numbers do get better … without seemingly being willing to actually offer up the numbers themselves…

Here are some of our other top reads this week for premium subscribers. This week, we published a major deep dive into the world’s next music unicorn and we dug deep into marketplace startups.

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Verizon is selling Tumblr – gpgmail


The Daily Crunch is gpgmail’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Verizon is selling Tumblr to WordPress.com parent, Automattic

It’s been six years since Yahoo acquired the popular blogging platform for more than $1 billion. Since then, Yahoo was acquired in turn by Verizon, and now Verizon is selling Tumblr for what’s been variously reported as a “nominal” price and “well below $20 million.”

While it may be simplistic to peg the service’s declining value to any single decision, last year’s move to ban pornography has certainly proved disastrous. At least on the surface, Automattic and WordPress seem like they might be a better fit.

2. Snap introduces Spectacles 3, with two HD cameras and 3D effects on Snapchat

Snap isn’t giving up on its Spectacles hardware yet.

3. Postmates to drop IPO filing next month

Despite previous reports indicating the on-demand delivery company is seeking an M&A exit, sources close to the matter say Postmates is on track to complete an initial public offering this year.

4. Announcing the Disrupt SF 2019 agenda

We’ve got a little something for everyone: Space chats with Lockheed Martin’s Marillyn Hewson and Blue Origin’s Bob Smith, a word from Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, a fireside chat with two of 2019’s big VC winners, Ann Miura-Ko and Theresia Gouw, as well as a rare chance to sit down with GV’s David Krane.

5. MasterClass founder launches Outlier, offering online courses for college credit

The classes cost $400 each and feature content specifically shot for online consumption (rather than your standard classroom lectures), with dynamically generated problem sets. And they come with credit from the University of Pittsburgh.

6. Singularity 6 raises $16.5M from Andreessen Horowitz to create a ‘virtual society’

The startup’s ex-Riot Games co-founders claim they’re less focused on building a button-mashing competitive shooter and more on creating a “virtual society,” where users can develop relationships with in-game characters powered by “complex AI.”

7. How lawyers help bring your acquisition deal to fruition

Attorneys can act as project managers, working with company executives and boards of directors, guiding them through the lengthy transaction process — and of course, advising them on the legal side of the equation. (Extra Crunch membership required.)


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Verizon Sells Tumblr to WordPress Owner for Paltry $3 Million


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Companies exist to make money for the owners and shareholders, and they’ll often do it at the expense of basic morality and common sense. That’s why the rise and fall of Tumblr is so perplexing. Verizon has announced that it’s selling the blogging platform to Automatic, the owner of WordPress for a mere $3 million. Just a few years ago, the site was worth $1.1 billion. That means under the stewardship of Yahoo and Verizon, Tumblr has lost a whopping 99.8 percent of its value. 

How can a web property go from being worth more than Facebook paid for Instagram to (comparatively) worthless? Tumblr was one of the early, high-profile acquisitions by Yahoo after former Googler Marissa Mayer took the helm. The first hit to Tumblr’s value came just three years after the 2013 acquisition. Yahoo announced its advertising sales on Tumblr in 2016 fell far short of expectations, and it wrote down $712 million of Tumblr’s value. 

Things continued to worsen for Yahoo across the board until Verizon acquired the company in 2017, cutting Mayer loose. Both Yahoo and Tumblr ended up under Verizon’s Oath subsidiary. Verizon left Tumblr alone for more than a year, and then someone realized there was (gasp) porn on the site. 

Tumblr has long acted as a safe haven for people who wanted to post saucy pictures, as well as members of the LGBTQ community who wanted to speak frankly about their sexuality. The site’s lax moderation policies allowed this content to proliferate over the course of years. Verizon was, apparently, uncomfortable with hosting adult content, so it announced a blanket ban earlier this year. Purging all that content drove away users and dropped Tumblr’s value to almost nothing. 

Automatic isn’t going to be Tumblr’s savior, based on statements from CEO Matt Mullenweg. Verizon’s ban on adult content will stand, but the service won’t be folded into WordPress. The two sites may begin sharing more features over time — Tumblr could get some more advanced editing tools from WordPress, and WordPress could adopt some of the mobile-focused features of Tumblr. 

So, any remaining Tumblr users won’t have to migrate to WordPress pages, at least for now. Who knows what the future will bring? If nothing else, Tumblr’s domain is worth money, and Automatic got that for a pittance.

Now read:




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Verizon is selling Tumblr to WordPress parent, Automattic – gpgmail


Six years after Yahoo purchased Tumblr for north of $1 billion, its parent corporation is selling the once-dominant blogging platform. WordPress owner Automattic Inc. has agreed to take the service off of Verizon’s hands. Terms of the deal are undisclosed, but the number is “nominal,” compared to its original asking price, per an article in The Wall Street Journal.

Axios is reporting that the asking price for the platform is “well below $20 million,” a fraction of a fraction of its 2013 price tag.

Once the hottest game in town, the intervening half-decade has been tough on Tumblr, as sites like Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and the like have since left the platform in the dust. More recently, a decision to ban porn from the platform has had a marked negative impact on the service’s traffic. According to Sensor Tower, first-time users for Tumblr’s mobile app declined 33% year-over-year last quarter.

“Tumblr is one of the Web’s most iconic brands,” Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg said of the news. “It is an essential venue to share new ideas, cultures and experiences, helping millions create and build communities around their shared interests. We are excited to add it to our lineup, which already includes WordPress .com, WooCommerce, Jetpack, Simplenote, Longreads, and more.”

The news certainly isn’t surprising. In May, it was reported that Verizon was looking for a new owner for the site it inherited through its acquisition of Yahoo. Tumblr was Yahoo’s largest acquisition at the time, as then-CEO Marissa Mayer “promise[d] not to screw it up” in a statement made at the time.

Tumblr proved not to be a great fit for Yahoo — and even less so Verizon, which rolled the platform into its short-lived Oath business and later the Verizon Media Group (also gpgmail’s umbrella company). On the face of it, at least, Automattic seems a much better match. The company runs WordPress.com, one of the internet’s most popular publishing tools, along with Jetpack and Simplenote. As part of the deal, the company will take on 200 Tumblr staffers.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be joining a team that has a similar mission. Many of you know WordPress.com, Automattic’s flagship product. WordPress.com and Tumblr were both early pioneers among blogging platforms,” Tumblr fittingly wrote in a blog post. “Automattic shares our vision to build passionate communities around shared interests and to democratize publishing so that anyone with a story can tell it, especially when they come from under-heard voices and marginalized communities.”

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of a thoughtful, thorough and strategic process,” Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan said in a statement. “Tumblr is a marquee brand that has started movements, allowed for true identities to blossom and become home to many creative communities and fandoms. We are proud of what the team has accomplished and are happy to have found the perfect partner in Automattic, whose expertise and track record will unlock new and exciting possibilities for Tumblr and its users.”


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