What Tumblr tells us about the future of the media

How the US Presidential election got TumblrTumblr has had a very good US election so far. The Obama campaign particularly has taken to it and scored big hits with animated GIFs. Not so much for Mitt Romney’s team, but both have paid a good deal of attention to it.

We also saw Tumblr working with various media brands like how it teamed up with The Guardian for the Presidential debates.

We also saw how one Tumblr post became the most popular of all time with a whopping eight million shares.

We also saw how Tumblr hired half a dozen bloggers, Tumblr users, to help cover the US election for the blogging platform and post to its special election  page: election.tumblr.com.

From Tumblr’s perspective this wasn’t described as a “media exercise”, but as a “community exercise within the framework of journalism and Tumblr-style content”.

Now comes this interesting post looking at all of this from Gigaom looking at what developments at Tumblr and other sites like Buzzfeed, which also added a political channel of its own, can tell us about the future of media.

One thing for sure, it all points to Tumblr becoming an increasingly useful platform:

This wasn’t just a nerd-off involving a few Tumblr bloggers and similar “meme-driven” sites like BuzzFeed: More mainstream sites such as The Guardian and The Atlantic have also spent a considerable amount of time during the presidential debates generating animated GIFs (which are like tiny video clips) of the participants. In some cases it’s a gesture such as Joe Biden’s repetitive smile, and in others it’s what viewers might have seen as a key turning point, such as Obama’s line about the military not needing more horses and bayonets during his debate with Mitt Romney.

The drive to capture these moments is powered by a desire to spot the next “meme,” the viral photo or phrase or snapshot in time that will reverberate long after the debate is over — and for media companies, the desire to capture some of the pageviews and traffic that they generate. And this adoption of the animated GIF as a story-telling element for major news events is just one offshoot of the ongoing socialization of media and the news industry, something that has been driven by Twitterand other social tools.

One of the reasons why Tumblr is at the core of this phenomenon is that the platform is almost perfectly positioned between traditional blogging and the real-time distribution of content offered by Twitter: the “reblog” button that Tumblr offers is a lot like Twitter’s retweet function, and it can send a new animated GIF or other meme rocketing through the blogosphere within minutes, which has helped Tumblr generate a massive 15 billion pageviews monthly (the social element of Tumblr’s design is one of the things I’ll be talking with founder David Karp about at the RoadMap conferenceon November 5th), according to Gigaom.com.

It raises a number of interesting questions. Such as are these new businesses, like  Tumblr,  just simply traditional media rebadged?

And if so what does that mean for traditional media firms? They might might partner with them, but are they in danger of being eaten for lunch by the likes of Tumblr as it produces more of its own content?