With the Yahoo! acquisition of Tumblr (May 20, 2013) and FaceBook’s acquisition of Instagram last year, content is king, finally. I was corresponding with some friends of mine about this acquisition this morning and recalled the erstwhile site, Suck.com. founded back in the mid-90s by a couple of guys who worked at HotWired (Wired mag’s site), and ran their server, over the HotWired network. Producing snarky, cynical and satirical content (“A fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun”) they entertained visions of the great American dream: Build something, develop a following, and then sell out. As the article about the site in Wired (4.11) pointed out:
…for most of the tyros following their Web Dreams, money is definitely the goal. The idea of the Sell Off infuses the Web, a place that echoes with the footfalls of venture capitalists making their hasty exits. Just look at all the software guys who made a bundle off of their Web Dreams. Marc Andreessen and his Browser Dream. Team Yahoo! and their Search-Engine Dream. And Jim Gleick and his anyone-can-use-the-Net Pipeline Dream. They all got rich on Wall Street [recall that this was published in 1996]. So why should the schlubs who are giving people a reason to get online and use Netscape and Yahoo! and Pipeline – the content guys – starve?
The “Sucksters” believed that content was king. It just happens that they were a decade too early, and slightly off in terms who the kings of content would be. It ended up that the content kings were not necessarily the snarky, cynical, satirists burning the midnight oil in the cubes of their employers, but rather the people who came to read the content that they were churning out nightly. It just so happens that the web readers were yearning, themselves, to create content, they just sought a platform on which to publish.
Enter the brainiacs at places like Tumblr and Instagram (and FaceBook –IPO — and Blogger — Google buyout — and WordPress — still indie) to come up with the platform. Latent Ansel Adams and larval Hunter Thompsons were just yearning for the space in which to express themselves. Via delivering a great a product and a great, drop- dead-easy-to-use, user experience, the sell-out-wunderkinds at Tumblr et al (meant with utmost respect) cashed in and acheived the American web-dream. Despite having no clear monetization plan, they certainly had the content, and the content-producers — in the hallowed 18-24 year old demo.
Even for those of us in the marketing biz the question of how to monetize these experiences and leverage them for our clients can be head-scractching. Rest assured though, that we will figure it out — even as some wonder what this purchase means for the future of the latest meme in the online marketing world, native advertising. It is this assurance that drove the Stanford MBAs at places like FaceBook and Yahoo! to think it useful to fork over $1,000,000,000 (give or take) for these properties. As for the founders of these successful ventures, they’ve achieved a great milestone, and as Joey Anuff said in his Wired article all those years ago, now running the business is someone else’s headache.