Tumblr founder David Karp has always dismissed the idea that Tumblr might put ads on its platform. See here, here, and just about every interview the young founder has ever given. But today, Tumblr rolled out highlighted posts, which allow people to pay Tumblr $1 to attach a digital sticker to their posts.
When pestered about a business model in the past, Karp has always said that Tumblr would find a way to generate revenue while staying true to its roots as a tool for creative expression. Talking recently with The Guardian, Karp’s hatred of advertising spilled over.
“The only real tools for expression these days are YouTube, which turns my stomach,” Karp said. “They take your creative works – your film that you poured hours and hours of energy into – and they put ads on top of it. They make it as gross an experience to watch your film as possible. I’m sure it will contribute to Google’s bottom line; I’m not sure it will inspire any creators.”
The new stickered posts are not advertising, they’re highlighting. Right…
The distinction wears pretty thin when you check out the section for Products, which includes $1 stickers for “Sale!” “On sale now” “Limited run!” “Last Chance!” “New Stuff!” and “Buy This!”
Just like Twitter has sponsored tweets and Facebook sponsored stories, Tumblr is trying to inject the potential for promotion on its site but avoid the temptation to just start slapping ad units across the banner.
Plenty of sites are already having fun subverting the PG rated choices Tumblr offer for highlight stickers.