Yahoo-owned microblogging service Tumblr is jumping into the trendy live video market, but it isn’t doing it the way one might expect.
As detailed on the company’s staff Tumblr, “you’ll be able to broadcast yourself directly into your followers’ dashboards. And they’ll be able to broadcast themselves directly into yours. We trust you all to be beautiful, weird, compelling, and just generally Tumblr about this whole thing.”
But Tumblr isn’t facilitating live video itself. Instead, it has built integrations with the YouNow, Kanvas, Upclose and YouTube mobile apps that allow users of those apps to connect to their Tumblr accounts and broadcast their live video streams to Tumblr.
When a stream begins, Tumblr will inform a user’s followers and embed the stream in the users’ dashboards. After a stream is complete, a recording will be available for repeat viewing as a regular video post.
At first glance, Tumblr’s strategy seems sensible. While it’s still a popular service that counts a large audience, Tumblr has struggled since being acquired by Yahoo in 2013 for $1 billion. Yahoo has reportedly failed to produce the revenue it expected from Tumblr, and late last year, the company wrote off $230 million of the $750 million in goodwill it paid at the time of acquisition. There are rumors Yahoo might write off all of the remaining goodwill.
Trying to compete with the live video offerings from Facebook, Twitter and Google/YouTube is probably not viable for Tumblr. Facebook, for instance, is reportedly paying key video creators $50 million to create Facebook Live content.
However, supporting live video via third-party integrations is arguably the next best option and should put Tumblr on the radar of the growing number of brands who are embracing live video.
That is because while Tumblr doesn’t integrate with two of the leading live video offerings, Facebook Live and Periscope, and might never, it does offer brands a means to connect with audiences they might not be able to easily access elsewhere.
As Digidays’s Lucia Moses detailed, even if Tumblr “is no more than a rounding error for publishers in terms of referral traffic,” there are a number of large publishers that “find value in its ability to reach a young, style-conscious and socially active audience they can’t find elsewhere.”
One such publisher is BuzzFeed and according to BuzzFeed’s Tumblr Editor Cates Holderness, “We talk about Tumblr as one community, but it’s really made up of hundreds of thousands of small communities. It provides access to a lot of underrepresented audiences.”
As brands experiment with live video and seek to stand out in a sea of live video content that is growing rapidly, access to those small communities could make Tumblr a small but important part of the burgeoning market if, of course, Tumblr’s users embrace the new functionality.
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