Did Hurricane Sandy outage show Tumblr is the future of publishing?

Gawker created a Tumblr site during Hurricane SandyWhen hurricane Sandy flooded an ISP server basement with five feet of water, it brought down Gawker Media, BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post. The sites couldn’t just wait for everything to come back online, so they built Tumblr backup sites instead:

“While BuzzFeed was able to salvage and reconstruct its site in a matter of hours, Tumblr played host to Gawker Media’s arsenal of popular sites like Gawker, Deadspin and Gizmodo for nearly a week.

New York based Tumblr is the most social of the mainstream blogging platforms, thanks to its ‘Follow’ and ‘Reblog’ features, and microblogging nature.  It has  seen also being associated with silly meme based content and porn. This has led to people taking it less seriously as a publishing platform than services like WordPress.

It also doesn’t have extensive monetizaton features like Google’s Blogger service. However, being a Hurricane Sandy stand-in, as well as key American election platform, has meant many people are now taking the service more seriously.

In the UK we have seen The Times use Tumblr to post Comment pieces in front of its paywall, and TechCrunch founder M.G. Siegler used Tumblr to run his ParisLemon blog. The key here seems to be ease of sharing, whether that is top journalistic opinion, or the more viral style content posted by Buzzfeed, Gawker and HuffPo.

Even more significant than ease of sharing for publishers is the fact that “Gawker did more than simply get by; it sold ads on the platform for State Farm. “

Monetization has always been the biggest problem for Tumblr. While its CMS makes it fantastically easy to publish slick looking content, adverts are not displayed in the dashboard, which is where many users see traffic. A lot of content is therefore currently unmonetized. Despite this, earlier in the month Tumblr announced a new A-List Partnership program to start bringing more ads onto the network.

Ernie Smith, who runs a news based Tumblr blog called ShortFormBlog, believes the platform has a strong future in publishing:

“Gawker proved that this model works for larger publishers. I think what Tumblr needs to do is figure out how to harness what people are already doing on the platform and figure out how it dovetails into something where they can nurture these prominent voices already on Tumblr to do more than just amplify their voice.”

Rick Webb,  who leads Tumblr’s marketing and revenue efforts said:

“We love our publishers, and we’re cooking up experiments, but they don’t operate the same way as a brand.”

Perhaps soon publishers are going to start loving Tumblr too.