According to a new analysis of the app’s in-app consumer spending, Tumblr’s parody of paid verification has already brought the social network and blogging platform a 125% increase in iOS in-app purchase revenue since November. Following its acquisition in 2019, the company, which is now owned by Automattic, which owns, began its response to Twitter’s paid verification scheme by introducing its own purely cosmetic double blue checks. This was a sort of ironic rebuttal to the idea that subscription-based verification had any real value.

It turned out that at least some Tumblr users were willing to pay, albeit not for clout, but rather because the blogging network’s jokes have proven to be a more successful monetization strategy than some of its more legitimate attempts to make money, such as its creator-focused subscription, Post+. At one point, crabs, a silly paid feature that allowed users to send animated dancing crabs to each other’s dashboards, outperformed Post+ in terms of monetization, despite community opposition.

Therefore, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Tumblr’s double-blue-check joke generates additional revenue for the platform.

Consumer spending on Tumblr’s iOS app has increased to $263,000 in net revenue since November 2022’s launch of double-blue-check, according to new data provided to TechCrunch by app intelligence firm Sensor Tower. Even though that number doesn’t even come close to being significant in the grand scheme of things, it still represents a 125% increase in spending when compared to the previous three-month total of August through October 2022.

Tumblr’s revenue is still rising, but not as much as it was when looking at longer-term trends. According to Sensor Tower, iOS in-app purchase revenue is up 19% compared to the previous ten months (January to October 2022) prior to the blue check’s launch. However, it is challenging to directly attribute these rises to Tumblr’s double blue check alone. Other in-app purchases on Tumblr include paid boosting, crabs, and ad-free browsing. After Twitter’s acquisition, the app also saw a flurry of new installs, which may have increased consumer spending.

According to Sensor Tower’s data, iOS installs have increased by 56% since November 2022 compared to the previous three months, reaching 934,000. Following Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, Tumblr, like a number of social apps, benefited from increased interest in alternatives to Twitter. At the end of the previous year, a number of Twitter rivals, including Mastodon, GETTR, Tribel, and others, had experienced a significant increase in installs.

Even if it’s just a joke, Tumblr’s blue checkmark and ties to revenue make it an interesting case study in the larger trend toward paid verification. Tumblr refers to the “Important Internet Checkmark” in-app purchase as a one-time purchase rather than an ongoing subscription, as Twitter and Meta now do. The feature on Tumblr has also been upgraded to include rainbow checks, which can at any time transform into crabs as the joke continues.)

Nevertheless, considering the minuscule increase in revenue, it is interesting to speculate as to what would have occurred if Tumblr had included the feature in an upgraded tier of its existing ad-free browsing subscription, which costs $4.99 per month, in order to increase its recurring revenues. It was still possible to do so “as a joke,” but it encouraged people to stick with the punchline for longer.
Tumblr is the next company to make fun of Twitter, and it's not pulling punches

In response to Apple’s privacy changes, social app subscriptions like Twitter Blue and Meta’s new paid verification have become more common. These changes restricted platforms’ ability to personalize targeted ads, reducing the effectiveness of the ads and, as a result, the revenues of the companies. As a consequence of this, these companies turned to the mobile subscription economy for assistance in making up for their losses.

Snapchat, for instance, launched Snapchat+ to provide power users with a variety of premium features; it now has 2.5 million paid users. However, unlike Twitter Blue and Meta’s recently announced Meta Verified for Instagram and Facebook, it does not include verification. In contrast, according to The Information, only 180,000 U.S. subscribers have paid for their subscriptions or less than 0.2 per cent of Twitter’s monthly active users.

As creators and businesses weigh the cost of paying for exposure and improved customer service across a variety of apps, it is unclear where this market will go with Meta’s entry. It is also unclear where this leaves Tumblr, which has branded paid verification a joke and opted out of the market entirely.

Historically, the company has never quite mastered monetization. Tumblr’s founder David Karp’s original vision for creative brand advertising and, later, Yahoo’s larger plans for search ads and other formats under Yahoo’s then-CEO Marissa Mayer failed to grow revenue over the course of the company’s existence. After Yahoo’s $1 billion acquisition six years later, its parent company, at the time Verizon, reportedly sold the service to Automattic for less than $20 million.

Matt Mullenweg, the company’s new owner, has talked about Tumblr’s potential to be a better Twitter and his intention to make subscriptions make up half of the company’s revenue. In December, the company introduced a live-streaming feature, which was today extended to the desktop. However, Mullenweg has also recently hinted at Tumblr’s participation in the Fediverse, a decentralized space. That could indicate a different revenue stream for Tumblr in the future, far beyond its parodies or paid verification.

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