Verizon to sell Tumblr to Wordpress parent

Verizon is unloading the microblogging site for a "nominal" sum, six years after Yahoo paid more than US$1bn for it.

Tumblr: Automattic will take on about 200 staff as part of the acquisition
Tumblr: Automattic will take on about 200 staff as part of the acquisition

US-based telco Verizon is to sell social-media platform Tumblr to Automattic, the owner of online publishing tool Wordpress.

Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but the price tag is apparently "nominal" compared with the approximately US$1.1bn Yahoo paid for the platform six years ago, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Axios has reported a source putting the deal "well below" $20m. Verizon became the owner of Tumblr when it acquired Yahoo in 2017.

The telco began seeking a buyer for the photo-sharing site earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported, after it failed to push a profit for the business.

Automattic will take on about 200 staffers as part of the acquisition, the companies said. The Tumblr acquisition is the largest ever in terms of price and head count for Automattic, according to the company’s chief executive Matt Mullenweg.

The San Francisco-based company is most notable for its open-source blogging software Wordpress. It owns a slew of online publishing tools including longform aggregation site Longreads, comment-filtering service Akismet, avatar-managing service Gravatar, online proofreading tool After the Deadline and many more.

Founded in 2007, Tumblr hosts more than 450 million blogs and has 380 million monthly visitors as of August 2019. It was once considered a major player in the social-media space, but has faced stiff competition from Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and other services.

Yahoo wrote down the site's valuation by $230m in 2016 after it failed to generate meaningful revenue. The site has also faced backlash over recent years for not properly monitoring pornographic content, leading Verizon to ban adult content last year.

In May, Pornhub’s vice-president Corey Price revealed that the company was "extremely interested" in purchasing the blog platform, calling it "a safe haven for those who wanted to explore and express their sexuality, adult entertainment aficionados included".

"We’ve long been dismayed that such measures were taken to eradicate erotic communities on the platform, leaving many individuals without an asylum through which they could comfortably peruse adult content," he told Buzzfeed News.

Automattic’s Mullenweg said his company intended to maintain the ban on adult content.

In other news about digital assets departing Verizon, ‘digital prophet’ David Shing, known as Shingy, revealed last week he is leaving the business after more than a decade. The Australian-born executive and tireless conference speaker joined AOL in 2007 as a marketing director and has held various roles within the company through its transformations into Oath and Verizon Media.

This article first appeared on Campaign Asia-Pacific.

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