UPDATE May 19, 4:30pm EDT: Yahoo to buy Tumblr for $1.1B, and Tumblr to operate largely as an independent business.
Yahoo, in an effort to turn its company around, made a $1.1 Billion bid to acquire blogging site Tumblr. This offer was rejected not only by Tumblr’s CEO, who believes the bid is too low, but also by Tumblr users, who are lashing out against this corporate takeover. A quick search on Tumblr shows how adamantly against this acquisition most users are. But is this backlash justified?
Yahoo is currently struggling to redefine its business strategy as it tries to gain a stronger foothold in the technology market. CEO Marissa Mayer’s new plan includes making strategic acquisitions to bolster the capabilities of the company. Tumblr is ideal for Yahoo; it has a popular following among 18-24 years olds, brings in ad revenue, and supports mobile. However, Tumblr is playing hard to get and is still looking for higher bids.
More important for Yahoo is that the acquisition would be worthless is Tumblr users leave due to the backlash. Many Tumblr users are posting about how they will switch to a different platform is this takeover happens. Others are threatening to post tons of obscene content to discredit the site. Some are even expressing fear of some imagined corporate evil that is, in their eyes, bound to occur.
Backlash seems to occur because many users of smaller sites think it is “cool” to be part of something intimate and new. Users of Tumblr (and initially Instagram) love their unique community and what it represents — a free zone untouched by corporate influence.They believe that an acquisition from a larger, well-known company automatically takes away from this community, but this is not inherently true.
When Facebook took over Instagram, many users expressed similar dissatisfaction. Yet, both Facebook and Instagram are still running strong. In fact, the acquisition made Instagram into a better application that integrates seamlessly and makes sharing photos easier. Acquisitions are not always bad!
If Yahoo were to make another offer and if the deal went through, nothing would likely change for Tumblr users for a long time. Yahoo knows how important keeping the users are, so it would take the time to really learn what Tumblr users want. Eventually, they will incorporate some changes that make the experience better, like Facebook did with Instagram. Also, so what if Tumblr users are able to make the Yahoo deal fall through. Yes, they can celebrate for a moment, but other, larger companies will be after Tumblr as well. Tumblr will not independent forever; it is in its owners best interest to sell the company and make a lot of money doing it. If it’s not Yahoo, it will be Microsoft, Google, or Facebook, all of which have already expressed interest in Tumblr.
Simply put, users of sites like Tumblr automatically assume the worst when they hear of an acquisition. Often, it is in the acquirer’s best interest to keep the users happy and enhance their experience. Why complain about something that you have no control over, and will most likely benefit you in the long run?