Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

How Many Users Does Tumblr Really Have?

Here’s a straightforward question: How many users does Tumblr have?

Alas, the answer isn’t cut-and-dried.

When Yahoo announced its $1.1 billion purchase of Tumblr yesterday, it said David Karp’s blogging platform had more than 300 million monthly unique visitors.*

But that’s not the same as a “user” number, at least not in the way that modern-day social networks like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook talk about user numbers.

When those guys talk about about users, they’re generally talking about “active users” — people who have created accounts on their networks, and are using those accounts to access the services’ core functions.

And if you’re trying to assess Tumblr’s business prospects, that would be a good number to know. Because, at least for now, the company’s ad strategy revolves around showing ads to registered users who use the service’s core “dashboard” — the equivalent of Twitter and Facebook’s news feeds.

Tumblr doesn’t seem to provide an equivalent number. So, unless they offer one up,** we’ll have to take educated guesses.

I’ve started out by asking someone who knows the company pretty well; that person guesstimates that the total number of monthly users who will see a Tumblr dashboard is at least a third of the company’s 110 million registered user base, and maybe quite a bit higher: “My guess is 30 million to 50 million.”

That number would sound a lot less impressive in the first paragraph of a press release, so it’s understandable that Yahoo would go with 300 million instead. And it’s important to note that Yahoo has already said it may start showing ads beyond the dashboard.

Yesterday, during her call with Wall Street analysts, Marissa Mayer said Yahoo would explore giving Tumblr bloggers the chance to run Yahoo ads on their own pages. You wouldn’t need to be logged in to see those.

If Yahoo did that, and Tumblr users tolerated it, that would certainly expand the company’s revenue stream beyond its active user numbers. Then again, there are a lot of Tumblr pages that are never going to have an ad on them, because porn and other topics aren’t “brand safe.”

Meanwhile, if anyone else wants to take a guess at the number of registered, dashboard-viewing users, be my guest. You can sound off in comments below, or reach me via email (

* That number is much bigger than the 117 million estimate comScore provides, but gaps between internal and external Web measurements are as old as Yahoo. By the way: In an ad sales pitch obtained by Business Insider, Tumblr said it had 225 million uniques as of March. That’s a big growth spurt!

** I’ve asked Tumblr’s rep for that info, but I’m still waiting for her to reply to the email I sent her last Thursday. Busy few days, I guess. [UPDATE: Tumblr’s rep replied! And no, they’re still not providing an active user number. On with the guesses!]

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald