×

Verizon Selling Tumblr to Company That Owns WordPress

Verizon announced a deal to sell Tumblr — the blogging site Yahoo acquired for $1.1 billion six years ago — to Automattic, the company that owns and operates online-publishing site WordPress.com.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the price tag is clearly nowhere near what Yahoo originally paid. Automattic will about $3 million for Tumblr, according to an Axios report citing anonymous sources. Automattic will bring about 200 Tumblr employees on-board with the deal, per the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news.

Verizon, which bought Yahoo in 2017, had been looking to unload Tumblr for months, the Journal previously reported. Tumblr hosts some 475 million blogs currently, with a blend of text, images and video content, but neither Yahoo nor Verizon were ever able to figure out how to make it a significant revenue-generating destination.

Verizon Media (formerly called Oath) in December of last year decided to ban adult content from Tumblr — a last-gasp effort in trying to make it a safer place for advertising and coming a month after Apple removed Tumblr’s app from its App Store after child porn was discovered in the app. The move prompted Tumblr’s traffic to drop by nearly one-third. The site in July 2019 had 381 million total visits, down from 521 million in December 2018, according to analytics firm SimilarWeb.

According to Automattic, it has no plans to reallow porn or other NSFW content on Tumblr.

Popular on Variety

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of a thoughtful, thorough and strategic process,” Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan said in a statement. He called Tumblr a “marquee brand” that has become “home to many creative communities and fandoms.”

The Tumblr sale comes after Verizon began pruning the Yahoo-AOL portfolio last year. It sold photo-sharing site Flickr to SmugMug and offloaded Moviefone to Helios & Mathenson Analytics, the parent of struggling theater-subscription service MoviePass.

There’s a natural fit between Automattic and Tumblr, which are both aimed at letting individuals and businesses create and manage online communities geared around content. “Tumblr is one of the web’s most iconic brands,” Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg said in a statement. “It is an essential venue to share new ideas, cultures and experiences, helping millions create and build communities around their shared interests.”

The deal isn’t officially closed, still subject to usual closing conditions. Automattic’s businesses, in addition to WordPress.com, include WooCommerce, Jetpack, Simplenote, and Longreads.

Under Gowrappan, Verzion Media is focusing on news, sports, finance and lifestyle content — as well as utilities like mail — to reach an aggregate base of nearly 1 billion consumers worldwide. Its brands include Yahoo, HuffPost, TechCrunch and AOL. Total Verizon Media revenue in the second quarter of 2019 was $1.8 billion, down 2.9%, as desktop ad sales continue to fall (an improvement over the group’s 7.2% drop in the year-earlier period). Gowrappan took over Verizon Media last fall with the exit of former CEO Tim Armstrong.

Back when Yahoo bought Tumblr, then-CEO Marissa Mayer had seen blogging site, founded by David Karp in 2007, as a potential major source of new revenue growth and a way into the social-media space. But that never panned out and less than three years after buying it, Yahoo took impairment charges totaling $482 million for Tumblr.

More Digital

  • Blood Oath

    MBC Studios to Launch Arabic TV Series 'Blood Oath,' Written by Britain's Tony Jordan

    MBC Studios, the Saudi-owned production unit of top Middle Eastern free-to-air satellite network MBC Group is set to launch “Blood Oath,” an Arabic crime series written by Britain’s Tony Jordan (“EastEnders,” “Life on Mars”). The announcement comes as Dubai-based MBC Studios, set up in 2018 and headed by former president of NBCUniversal International Peter Smith, is [...]

  • Spirited Away

    Netflix to Carry Iconic Studio Ghibli Animated Films

    The iconic animated features of Japan’s Studio Ghibli will be available on Netflix from February. The move is a further change of position for the studio which has repeatedly resisted the idea that its beloved cartoons would be released on digital platforms. Netflix, sales agent Wild Bunch, and Studio Ghibli, which counts Hayao Miyazaki as [...]

  • ‘Drag Race’ Producers Greenlight Two Docu-Series

    ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Producers Greenlight Two Docu-Series for SVOD (EXCLUSIVE)

    “RuPaul’s Drag Race” producer World of Wonder has greenlit two docu-series: “God Shave the Queens!” and an “Untitled Trinity Taylor Pageant Project.” The announcement will be made Sunday at the first-ever DragCon U.K. convention, which is taking place at Olympia, London. “God Shave the Queens!” features the first-ever cast of “RuPaul’s Drag Race UK” and [...]

  • VRrOOm Launching VR Platform for Immersive,

    VRrOOm to Launch VR Platform for Immersive, Multi-User Streaming of Live Events

    French VR company VRrOOm is launching a six degrees of freedom (6-DoF) social VR platform that operates within the VRChat live platform, and enables multiple users to take part in live events, and includes the possibility of real-time photo-realistic representation. Louis Cacciuttolo founded VRrOOm in 2016 after working three years at THX in San Francisco. [...]

  • Any Given Wednesday With Bill Simmons

    Spotify in Talks to Acquire Bill Simmons' The Ringer: Report

    Spotify is in early talks to acquire The Ringer, the digital content and podcast network launched by ESPN alum Bill Simmons in 2016, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. A representative for Spotify declined to comment on the report. Reps for Ringer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Spotify’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content