Post+ Subscriptions Could Make Tumblr Relevant Again

Watch out, Substack

Key Takeaways

  • Tumblr’s new Post+ service lets you subscribe to paid Tumblogs.
  • Tumblr is owned by Automattic, the owner of Wordpress.
  • Tumblr usage tanked when it banned adult content.
person using MacBook Pro to type into a word document

Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash

Tumblr, the OG meme machine, now has paid post subscriptions. Tumblr’s back, baby.

Tumblr’s new subscription service is called Post+, and it lets Tumblr microbloggers choose which posts they want public, and which to put behind a paywall. Subscribers pay $3.99, $5.99, or $9.99 per month—the amount is decided by the creator, and Tumblr takes a 5% cut. And that’s it. Super simple, just like the original all-free Tumblr. But can it bring the blogging service back?

"Of course, Tumblr’s paid subscriptions will make the platform relevant again. The formula sounds a lot like what Substack offers—a blog and an easy way for writers to charge for it—minus the whole emailed newsletter component," Olivia Tan, co-founder of online communications company CocoFax, told Lifewire via email. 

The Fall and Rise of Microblogging

Tumblr has been in decline since it banned explicit content in 2018. According to TechCrunch, monthly page views dropped by 151 million (29%) in the four months after the ban. It now stands at an average of around 350 million pageviews per month.

A few more numbers: 11 million posts are made every day, and there are half a billion active blogs. Those aren’t bad figures, but Tumblr doesn’t have the mindshare it once enjoyed. It used to be the place where memes were made. Now, despite an impressive regular user base, it is eclipsed by Twitter, and now even by newcomer Substack.

"Tumblr users have been very aggressive in their backlash of Post+, so it might not be successful with current Tumblr users."

"Tumblr [will launch] its paid subscriptions with the hope to attract younger users," Miranda Yan, co-founder of software development company Vinpit, told Lifewire via email, "and to help them keep a platform that rose to prominence among teenagers and college students in the early 2010s as a place to share memes, photos, and creative writing."

Blogging, itself, may be making a comeback, although right now that resurgence is in the form of newsletters delivered by email, rather than blog posts delivered by RSS. But Substack, Ghost, and audio blogging in the form of podcasting, are popular and growing. People are interested in more thoughtful articles and creations, and we’re at last willing to pay for them. 

Tumblr is now owned by Automattic, the Wordpress company that also recently bought popular journaling app Day One. Wordpress started as a blogging platform, and now powers 40% of all websites. It seems that Wordpress is now looking to get back to its roots in personal blogging. 

Paid Tumblrs

Once the beta period is over and Tumblr launches Post+, anyone will be able to charge for a subscription, and anyone will be able to subscribe. Although not explicitly stated, the FAQ implies you’ll be able to subscribe directly from the Tumblr iPhone app, using Apple’s subscription feature, which makes it really easy to sign up. 

You can also reblog posts, which will result in another post with a teaser, and the option to subscribe.

But can charging money really bring people back to Tumblr? Or rather, can it put Tumblr back at the top-tier of internet publishing, alongside Twitter, Substack, and perhaps Facebook’s Bulletin? 

multiple Tumblr blogs as they appear on mobile

Tumblr

Charging to read blog posts might not attract readers immediately, but it might tempt bloggers to use Tumblr over alternatives. Especially as Tumblr’s re-blogging feature, and easy subscriptions signups, could make growing an audience a lot easier and faster than with email newsletters. 

And if the creators come, and they publish, then the readers will (hopefully) follow.

Not everyone is into this Tumblr resurgence, though. Current users have spoken out against it, although many of the complaints seem to be either creators who don’t want to pay to read other Tumblogs, or folks worried that paid posts will somehow turn Tumblr into another like-chasing social network like Instagram or Twitter.

"Tumblr [will launch] its paid subscriptions with the hope to attract younger users."

This author is a Tumblr fan, and has no desire to see it descend to the level of Instagram. But doesn’t a paid subscription layer encourage more thoughtful posts, and draw a more engaged readership? 

"Tumblr users have been very aggressive in their backlash of Post+," journalist Mika Kujapelto told Lifewire via email, "so it might not be successful with current Tumblr users. But it could draw in others who haven’t used Tumblr before."

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