Yahoo! is (allegedly) courting Tumblr to the tune of $1.1 billion in cash.
Yay for David Karp. Yikes for users. Tumblr isn’t making all that much and those VC’s want a return on their investment. A sale to Yahoo! for over a billion in cash would be great for Tumblr’s investors. When Facebook paid a billion for Instagram, it kind of made sense. Facebook sees mobile as the future and it needed to ensure that a quickly growing social network would pose no threat. Yahoo! has no microblogging platform. Tumblr’s primary competitor (Posterous) is gone. Twitter trying to buy Tumblr would make more sense to me than Yahoo! buying Tumblr.
What’s in it for the users of Tumblr? What is Yahoo! doing today that would make me as a Tumblr user have a better experience than they do now? I believe in Marissa Mayer inasmuch that she probably has the best shot at plugging the holes in the sinking ship that is Yahoo! but simply buying up hot web real estate isn’t necessarily the best way to do that. For much of the last decade, that’s what Yahoo! did … buy “the next big thing” and then let it wither on the vine. Just for kicks, check out the Yahoo! acquisitions list on Wikipedia:
If Google got your hackles raised with shutting down Google Reader, then Yahoo! is the guy who adopts homeless pets and then lets them die of starvation in their own filth. They don’t have a great track history. When Twitter bought Posterous for the relatively low cost of $10 million, it was an acqui-hire so they could integrate some of the talent into the Twitter team. It was obvious they didn’t care about keeping Posterous around and shut it down a year later. What would Yahoo! do with Tumblr? Obviously it would be idiotic to shut it down and no doubt the technology behind Tumblr isn’t so complicated that if Yahoo! wanted its own microblogging site it couldn’t just write one at far less of a cost, so what’s the angle? How will Yahoo! recoup that money? If Tumblr only brought in $13 million in 2012, how are they arriving at that $1.1 billion purchase price? If the intent is to take on Twitter, consider that Twitter is on target to hit $1 billion in revenue by 2016 having pulled in $260 million in 2012.
It’s still early in the Mayer era at Yahoo! and one can only hope that there is some master plan that makes more sense to Yahoo’s board than to a non-math loving layman like me.