Liz Gannes

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Tumblr’s Inflection Point Came When Curators Joined Creators

Tumblr was an accidental social network, said founder and CEO David Karp, speaking at the DLD conference in Munich today.

In its early days, the service didn’t have the “steep social network growth” you might expect, because it was about a core community of creators, Karp said. The company originally set out to build novel tools that offered an escape from the restrictive templates of Facebook and Twitter.

When the site really took off was when the curators — people who primarily respond to other Tumblr users’ content by “reblogging” it on their own pages — came on board.

Today, creators are probably 10 percent of Tumblr, and curators are 90 percent, Karp estimated.

And further, the average post on Tumblr is reblogged nine times, he said.

That can mean a single post gets the amplification of nine separate blogs, nine RSS feeds, nine blogs’ page views and followers, and nine bloggers’ syndication on Facebook and Twitter. “So your content has a huge footprint,” Karp said.

What’s next for Tumblr, which just raised a bunch of money and brought in some senior management? Well, monetization, for one thing. Karp said Tumblr is pursuing “novel approaches to revenue,” including selling blog themes.

At 15 billion page views per month across more than 41 million blogs, “with that many page views we could throw AdSense up there tomorrow and be profitable,” Karp said. But that’s not what he wants to do.

Karp said Tumblr is also working to “try and filter our network in ways that are more appealing to a global market.”

He added that Tumblr takes pride in being a New York-based company, and in hiring people with experience building things on the Web, rather than degrees from schools like Stanford. Half of Tumblr’s recent hires have relocated to New York to work for the company, most of them from the West Coast, Karp said.

(Image courtesy of DLD)

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle