Verizon to sell Tumblr to WordPress parent company Automattic

13 Aug 2019

Image: ArturVerkhovetskiy/Depositphotos

WordPress owner Automattic has said it will integrate Tumblr into its existing online platform.

Six years after Yahoo picked up Tumblr for more than $1bn, the platform is now being sold to WordPress owner Automattic for a number said to be “nominal”, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Though the terms of the deal remain undisclosed, a source familiar with the deal told Axios that it is “well below” $20m. Some sources have put the price as low as $3m, which would be significantly lower than the previous eight-figure price tag. With this purchase, Automattic will take on Tumblr’s 200 employees and more than 450m blogs that it hosts.

“Tumblr is one of the web’s most iconic brands,” said Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg. “It is an essential venue to share new ideas, cultures and experiences, helping millions create and build communities around their shared interests. We are excited to add it to our lineup, which already includes, WooCommerce, Jetpack, Simplenote, Longreads and more.”

Verizon moves

Tumblr became part of Verizon in 2017, after the communications giant’s $4.4bn acquisition of Yahoo.

Speaking about the sale of the platform, Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan described Tumblr as a “marquee brand that has started movements, allowed for true identities to blossom and become home to many creative communities and fandoms”.

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of a thoughtful, thorough and strategic process. We are proud of what the team has accomplished and are happy to have found the perfect partner in Automattic, whose expertise and track record will unlock new and exciting possibilities for Tumblr and its users.”

Pornhub had previously expressed interest in purchasing Tumblr, intending to reverse the sweeping porn ban that Verizon implemented in December 2018. The ban proved controversial: web traffic is said to have plummeted by a third since the ban was brought in, according to Fast Company. Automattic has said that it will uphold the ban and look into ways to integrate Tumblr and WordPress.

This is the second major Yahoo property that Verizon has parted with. It sold photo-sharing site Flickr to SmugMug in April 2018.

Person using Tumblr app on smart tablet. Image: ArturVerkhovetskiy/Depositphotos.

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic