Briefing

Verizon sells Tumblr to Automattic, WordPress.com’s parent company; exact price undisclosed

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Automattic will take on about 200 Tumblr workers in its largest-ever acquisition by price and employee count. Sources close to the deal said it cost Automattic less than US$3 million, according to Axios. Founded in 2007, Tumblr is a free blogging and social platform. (Wall Street Journal, Axios)

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Talking point: The acquisition comes six years after Yahoo bought Tumblr for over US$1 billion; Verizon became the owner after purchasing Yahoo in 2017 in a bid to move into the digital media and advertising space. At the time, Tumblr’s growth and popularity was on par with, or even exceeded, that of platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The site has struggled to find a solid monetization strategy, and it’s been accused of failing to moderate the spread of child porn and similar content on its platform. In November 2018, Apple removed Tumblr’s mobile app from its App Store for that reason. Weeks later, Verizon banned all adult content on Tumblr entirely, a move that cost the platform one-third of its users. Automattic said it will maintain the ban and find ways to share services with WordPress.com. For Verizon, shedding Tumblr is part of its digital-media revitalization strategy; it laid off seven per cent of its media division in January.