Tumblr users lash out at their beta subscription feature – TechCrunch

The Tumblr community often refers to itself as the wild west of the internet, and they are right. TO text posting With over 70,000 notes he puts it best: “Tumblr is my favorite social media site because this place is literally uninhabitable for celebrities. Without a verification system, without an algorithm to improve their posts, it is a completely lawless wasteland for them. “

But like any social media company, Tumblr needs to stay afloat so that its users keep sharing esoteric fan art, incomprehensible shitty posts, and overly personal journal entries hidden under a “Read More” button. Yesterday, Tumblr announced the limited beta testing of its Publishing + subscription function, which, if all goes according to plan, will eventually allow Tumblr users to post paid content to subscribers who pay them $ 3.99, $ 5.99, or $ 9.99 per month.

Image credits: Tumblr

Tumblr is far from the first social media platform to seek income this way: Twitter is rolling out Super followers and a Tip jar feature, and this week YouTube announced a tip feature also. Even Instagram is working on its own version of Twitter’s Super Follows that would allow users to create “exclusive stories. “But on a website with a community that prides itself on being a ‘completely lawless wasteland’ for anyone with a platform (except for Wil Wheaton Y Neil gaiman, which are simply vibrating), the move to paywall content was not greeted with open arms.

Monetization is a double-edged sword. It is not considered unpleasant for a Tumblr artist to link to a third-party Patreon or Ko-fi site on their blog, where their most enthusiastic followers can access paid content or send tips to them. So Post + seems like an obvious way for Tumblr to generate revenue – instead of directing followers to other websites, they could create a way for fans to support creators on their own platform while getting a cut of 5 %. This is not unreasonable, considering that Twitter will get 3% of revenue from its new monetization tools, while video-centric platforms like YouTube and Twitch will take 30% and 50%, respectively. But Tumblr is not Twitter, YouTube, or Twitch. Unlike other platforms, Tumblr does not allow you to see the number of other people’s followers and no accounts are verified. It is not so easy to tell if the person behind a popular post has 100 followers or 100,000 followers, and users prefer it that way. But Post + changes that, giving bloggers an icon next to their username that resembles a blue Twitter check.

A Tumblr Post Creator Profile +

Tumblr launched Post + this week for a select group of handpicked creators, including Kaijuno, writer and astrophysicist. The platform announced Post + in a new blog specific to this product, rather than its established staff blog, which users know to check for important announcements. So, as the most public user ever granted access, the 24-year-old blogger was the target of a backlash from angry Tumblrites who didn’t want their favorite social media site turned into hyper-capitalist hell. When Kaijuno received death threats for Post + beta testing, Tumblr staff intervened and condemned the harassment against Post + users.

“We want to know what you like, what you love, and what you care about. Even if it is not very pleasant. Tell us. We can accept it, “wrote Tumblr on his staff blog. “What we will never accept is the targeted harassment and threats that these creators have endured since this afternoon. […] all they’re doing is testing a function. “

Before making his post, a representative from Tumblr staff reached out to Kaijuno directly to verify them regarding the reaction, but Tumblr can only do much after a user has already been threatened for using its product.

“I felt like the slaughtered lamb, because they didn’t advertise Post + beforehand and only gave it to a few people, which led to me being targeted by a very angry user base when I’m just trying to pay the medical bills by giving people the option to pay for content, ”Kaijuno told TechCrunch. “I knew there would be a backlash because users hate any kind of change on Tumblr, but I thought the worst part of the backlash would be from staff and beta testers would be spared most of it.”

Why do Tumblr users perceive monetization as a threat? It’s not about whether or not it’s valuable to support creators, but whether Tumblr is capable of hosting such a service. Several avid and longtime Tumblr users who spoke to TechCrunch referenced an incident in late 2020 when people’s blogs were being hacked by spam bots running incessant ads for a Ray-Ban summer sale.

“Tumblr is not the best coded website. It’s easy to break functions, ”added Kaijuno. “I think anything involving trusting Tumblr for your financial information would have had a backlash.”

Tumblr users were also concerned about the implications Post + could have on privacy: In the limited beta, Post + users only have the ability to block people who are subscribed to their blog if they contact it. Tumblr support. In cases of harassment by a subscriber, this could leave the vulnerable blogger in a potentially dangerous situation.

“Ahead of our launch to all US-based creators this fall, Post + will allow creators to block subscribers directly,” a Tumblr spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Still, the extremely online Gen Z members that now make up 48% of Tumblr They know that they can’t expect the platform to continue to exist if they don’t get enough money to pay their staff and server fees. In 2018, Tumblr lost almost a third from your monthly pageviews after all NSFW content was banned; Since then, the platform’s monthly traffic has remained relatively stagnant.

Image credits: SimilarWeb

A former Tumblr employee told TechCrunch that the feature that became Post + started out as a tip jar. But Tumblr’s top brass, who don’t work directly with the community, redirected the project to create a paid subscription product.

“I think a tip jar would be a huge improvement,” said the creator behind the Tumblr blog. normal-horoscopes. Through the main audience they developed on Tumblr, they make a living through Patreon, but Post + doesn’t appeal to their business. “External services [like Patreon] I have more options, more benefits, better prices, and as a creator, I can choose how I present them to my audience. “

But a paid subscription service is different in the collective eyes of Tumblr. For a site that thrives on fandom, creators who do fan art and fanfiction worry about putting this derivative work behind a paywall, which Post + anima what to do – it will bring you legal trouble. Even Archive of Our Own, a major fanfiction site, prohibits its users of linking to sites like Patreon or Ko-Fi.

“Built-in monetization attracts businesses, corporate accounts, people who are generally there to make money first and provide content second,” said the normal horoscope. “Change the culture of a platform.”

Across Tumblr, annoying users are rallying to get their followers to take Post + feedback survey to express your frustrations. The staff appreciates this.

“As with any new product launch, we hope our users will have a healthy discussion about how the feature will change the dynamics of how people use Tumblr,” a Tumblr spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Not all of these comments will be positive and that’s okay. Constructive criticism drives the way we create products and ultimately makes Tumblr a better place. “

Tumblr’s vocal community has been empowered over the years to question whether it is possible for a platform to establish new sources of income in a way that feels organic. The protection that Tumblr’s user base feels for the site, despite its lack of faith in the staff, sets it apart from social media giants like Facebook, which can putting e-commerce front and center without much scrutiny. But even three years after the catastrophic porn ban, it seems difficult for Tumblr to grow without alienating the people who make the social network unique.

Platforms like Reddit and Discord have stayed afloat by selling digital products, such as coins to reward the best posters or special emojis. Each company’s financial needs are different, but Tumblr’s choice to monetize with Post + highlights the company’s lack of awareness of the wishes of its own community.


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