Now, I have somewhat of an inside interest in this discussion, as I had a Tumblr with 160,000 followers at the time I shut it down. I had the level of scale and reach to realistically make something like Tumblr Post+ work. Technically, I still do if I ever decide to go back to Tumblr—while there has been some natural decline over time due to the fact that I haven’t posted very much since late 2014, I still have 148,000 followers. And some of those people are still around; I posted a GIF on it recently and it has more than 400 likes and reblogs as I write this.
But the problem is, the release of this tool comes at a time when there are lots of options to turn on the cash register. Patreon has existed for years. People have figured out how to use Substack to make a go of it. Heck, the service you’re reading this on, Revue, makes it a one-click process to gate my content for my nearly 300 subscribers to this newsletter behind the paywall. Yes, I live in a world where, given the choice between 148,000 followers and 280-something, I chose the three-digit number.
I think Automattic and Tumblr are trying to do the best they can with a not particularly well-suited deck of cards. They have a community that is well-established but needs a realistic monetization model beyond advertising to survive beyond simply being a charity mission. The users that have stuck with it have come to treasure the relatively non-commercial nature of the platform.
And another factor is that Tumblr’s design would be basically perfect as a web interface for Substack-style newsletters. Basically every element is there. Maybe they just need to make a Tumblr for newsletters and let the meme machine live on its own.