How Tumblr plans to attract brands & their money

Tumblr is finally ready to start opening the doors to brands. It will begin with a new tool for placing branded Tumblr posts into its Radar feature starting May 2, said Tumblr founder David Karp, speaking at the Ad Age Digital Conference Wednesday. The details are still being worked out but Tumblr will allow brands to buy a presence on the site through Radar, a feature on the Tumblr dashboard which highlights editorially selected posts.
The move starts to address Tumblr’s big question about how it will generate revenue. In a recent interview, Karp told me he was planning on growing revenues by promoting creativity within the network, especially for users who can highlight their own posts for a fee and buy more themes and designs through Tumblr’s marketplace. But the path for brands has been less clear.
Tumblr has tried one-off promotions with brands: in some cases letting them sponsor a directory. But now, with Radar, there will be a regular place for advertisers to promote their stuff, both on the desktop site and on Tumblr’s mobile apps. Currently about 15 or so posts get featured a day and now brands will get to work their way into the mix. Karp said it’s just part of a package of tools that will become available to advertisers. The pricing has not been released.
“This is about making Tumblr much more accessible to brands,” Karp said.
Advertising on other social networks has been constrained by some of the formats, such as Twitter’s promoted tweets, Karp said. He said he’s looking forward to unleashing the creativity of the advertising community within the existing Tumblr blog post format. Radar gets 120 million impressions a day from Tumblr’s more than 50 million users, he said.
“I don’t know that this will be the primary (revenue generator for Tumblr) but we expect it to be a big part of the business going forward,” Karp said.
The Radar ad units also help Tumblr welcome advertising that is still organic to the site. Karp has repeatedly said in the past he is not interested in running traditional display ads.
Tumblr still has a lot of questions to answer about its revenue strategy. It’s unclear how easily advertisers will be able to place their posts on Radar and how much they will need to spend. And it sounds like having a ho-hum post may not cut it.
Brands won’t have to have a big following to make use of the promoted posts on Radar. But they will need to work on creating really interesting and engaging stuff, the kinds of content that rises to the top of Tumblr. Some like Warby Park, MAC and the Hunger Games movie are already building out a presence on Tumblr, Karp said, with some very cool Tumblr blogs. He’s now ready to welcome a whole lot more of them onto the platform.