12 ideas for a premium Tumblr subscription

September 1st 2017

12 ideas for a premium Tumblr subscription

What will become of Tumblr now that the service is owned by Verizon ? No one really knows. David Karp left Jeff D'Onofrio in charge. One thing is sure : Tumblr currently does not make much money. Of course, the company probably went over all the possible options already. But here is how I view things for a premium Tumblr subscription.

I have been using Tumblr for something like 8 years or so and I have to say, despite the utterly stupid GIF trend (yeh, I'm 38...), I have never gotten tired of it. I like how it can be both simple yet very customizable when you take the time to read the documentation.

However, with what's happening at Yahoo! some people might logically wonder what will become of Tumblr. Online ads certainly are not the secret sauce that will instantly make the whole service uber profitable as people clearly don't want to see adverts on their blog.

I do believe however that there is room to offer a subscription model. Right now, Tumblr already gives for free many features that require a premium subscription over at Wordpress.com. Mapping a domain name or deep style customization, for instance, are not free at Automattic's. But there are over here at Tumblr.

Yet Tumblr still can offer more and I sure would be willing to pay to be able to safely continue using the service. So here are few ideas for a premium Tumblr experience.

1 - Filter by post types

The idea is for your visitors to be able to quickly jump to all your photos, videos, text posts... This would probably imply specific pages like yourblog.tumblr.com/type/photos

Tumblr basically invented Custom Post Types, an idea that was later borrowed by Wordpress. However, to that date, there are a few limitations. You can filter by post types in the archive section (eg.yourblog.tumblr.com/archive). You can also filter those post by tweaking the blog's feed from the Javascript (eg.yourblog.tumblr.com/js?type=photo). But you can't do it on the front-end

This one has been asked many times but still has not been implemented. I would like to be able to filter my publications by their nature. For instance, all my photos, all my links... Right now, one has to use specific tag (eg. adding a "photo" tag to a photo post) to achieve this.

2 - Unlock page tags for post type for deeper customization

If you allow me to see all my photos or all my links with specific URL then on the development side, it would be nice if Tumblr also unlocked new page tags to complement the TagPage and SearchPage tags. For instance {Block:LinkPage}, {Block:PhotoPage}, {Block:QuotePage}...

For instance, when seeing all my links I may want a simple layout listing all the links without the notes, but when seeing all my photos, I may want to display a grid of the thumbs without the captions. And when seeing all my videos, I may want to build a carousel.

Such a tag would be like {Post:VideoPage}{/Post:VideoPage} inside of which, you'd be able to style your theme. In the end, you would come up with a very rich theme.

3 - Add new/custom post types

We already have lots of post types but why not add more for other specific needs? For instance, right now all the rage is about VR and 360° photos. What about introducing a nice player for spheric photos as part of this subscription ? And by the way, I think I read somewhere that Wordpress.com just introduced this. Also, we know there are several slideshow templates available for photosets but why not being able to choose from a few different official layouts to make it easier to integrate those in the theme code ?

But then it would also be nice to be able to build your own post types. That's where the flexibility of Wordpress is a real killer. I have in mind an interface on top of which you'd simply drag and drop modules (title, link, note, photo...) to create your own post types. There's no need to get nerdy nor to have a complex interface, let's finish Automattic's job and iron things out.

Say, for instance, that you love binge-watching TV-shows and you want to publish a review after seeing one. You could have a module extracting IMDB information, another one retrieving the official image, a rate field and a text area for your review.

4 - A dedicated About Me page

Along with the static pages that you can build, I believe a dedicated About Me page would be nice. This could be tight to some sort of directory where people could publish their contact information. That could compete with About.me.

One could choose in which directory he wants to appear, for instance, "Photographers" or "freelance web designers".

Having such a directory may seem a bit weird, but think of the possibilities. Many small companies or freelancers have their website on Tumblr. Now Tumblr also has a messaging system. In the end, this would be a nice way to find a professional and for the company, to have a greater discovery rate with a customer support messaging platform

5 - And a real contact page

I understand that Tumblr want to place all communications on their website via the Message form to retain the users but if I pay a premium subscription I would love a real contact form like those PHP ones and with some anti-spam tool. That would work fine.

Another solution would be to sign a partnership with a premium contact provider in order to offer a deep customization within any theme on Tumblr

6 - Instant Messenging apps

I was first excited by the Tumblr instant messaging feature but then realized that it was only available on Tumblr.com. Another premium feature would be to be able to access it from the phone, through an app

Despsite all the messaging apps over there, it really comes down to just a few of them : WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Many companies failed to see opportunites. LinkedIn, for instance could perfectly build a professional messenging app. But they did not. I believe that the Tumblr community is vast enough to create one.

This would certainly help small companies or freelancers setting their website on Tumblr while staying in touch with their customers. And that would probably encourage the younger population to publish more on Tumblr.

7 - Custom Archive

All Tumblr blogs have an /archive page but they all look the same. It's not horrible and rather neutral. Yet I wish I was able to customize this page so that it fits better the themes that I make.

At least, it would be nice if a premium subscriber could choose between 3 or 5 pre-made templates.

8 - Unlock more from the API

The idea is to retrieve more information in order to create richer posts. To that end, on the developer side, I wish there were a little bit more to play with in the API.

For instance, it would be nice to have a world map showing all the places where my published photos have been taken. Or what about a map and a pinpoint below each photo ?

Yet, right now, the geo-location information does not show up in the exif data.To make it up for this, in ArtFolio, I had to make use of a Javascript relying on a specific tag structure (which is actually quite awesome).

I only use a couple post types but one can probably think about other types of data. For instance automaticcaly retrieving lyrics when sharing a Spotify track... you name it...

9 - Raise the post limit

I would also raise the "15 posts per page" limit currently in place for all Tumblr blogs. This is also an old request from users.

I personnaly don't mind too much about this and people have already being using a Javascript to implement infinite scrolling in their theme.

I guess 15 posts per page is OK. I believe this limit has two main reasons : to provide a good experience by not having websites that take too much time to load up. To maintain a traffic rate while preserving a certain amount of page clicks.

10 - Access to premium themes

A premium Tumblr user could also have access to premium Tumblr themes published in the official directory. For instance, the bundle could come with one premium pre-selected theme of their choice per year.

This would be interesting for several reasons. On the one hand, web designers would have a long term contract with Tumblr and get money on a yearly basis while providing one year of support. Their theme would benefit from a better visibility. It's different from simply making a theme and putting it up for sale in a directory among dozens of other premium templates. Especially when not all of the current $49 template truly are premium...

Web designers would provide a truly premium experience in hope of being selected by the Tumblr staff to be part of the deal

On the customer side, this process would encourage them to renew their yearly subscription as they know they'll be able to upgrade their website with a new theme while having some support.

11 - A real commenting system

There are tons of great commenting systems that could replace Disqus and have a great integration into a Tumblr. Granted most of them are not free but then such a tool could be part of that premium subscription through a partnership. That'd be a great value for users.

I actually stopped using Disqus. The service has not been upgraded in years. The implementation is quite bad and hardly customizable. I personnaly added a two "share & comment" links to Twitter and Facebook

12 - Backup or self-hosting

The only problem that I have with Tumblr is that I cannot self-host the websites. For some reasons, it makes me feel uneasy. I have no idea where my files are hosted - and I don't really care. But what if the server crashes ? What if they shut down ?

Giving small companies the ability to self-host the Tumblr platfom would be really great. There have been attempts at forking Tumblr for this very specific purpose. If I remember well, the project was called Gelato but it's now closed.

And it's too bad because people are actually dying for a cleaner, smaller and more efficient Wordpress alternative when it comes to blogging in a simple and efficient manner.

Yet, I doubt Tumlr would ever allow us to do that. So instead n give me at least the ability to backup my posts. In fact there used to be an official backup tool but it's not available anymore. My guess is that was not compatible with 2F Auth.

It could also be that people were backing up their posts to move to Wordpress. Yet, if this is part of a premium subscription then, things suddenly are different.

How much ?

I'm sure one can think of a lot more for such a subscription, for instance having a direct access to Font Awesome or to some paid font libraries... I still have tons of ideas.

Now how much would I be willing to pay ? I guess it depends on what is available but generally speaking I believe $29-$49/year would be a great deal for all those features

Right now there are 353.4 million blogs on Tumblr. Since one person can create several blogs (as a theme designer, I got a few), I'd say there are probably 100 million user accounts with a relatively large average of three blogs per account, Now if only 5% of those go premium with a basic price of $29/year, that's an annual revenue of $145 million.


Sunday December 10th 2017

The more I think about it, the more I believe that Tumblr's real problem is that it is a bit too much associated with teenagers sharing animated GIF. It's kind of MySpace 15 years years ago. And I believe that there is much unexploited potential.

So instead of a Tumblr Pro subscription, I'm actually wondering whether the Tumblr team should in fact introduce a new premium brand in order to built a new premium network of publishers. A service that would directly compete with Medium for instance. After all, I'm not sure that great photographers or great writers are willing to see their content lost among 20+ GIFS...

On a sidenote, I'm also wondering about the multimedia aspect of Tumblr when it comes to professionals. They usually stick to one or two content types (usually either text posts or photo posts for instance). Therefore, it might make sense to create premium bundles.

For instance, a "Tumblr Photo Pro" subscription could include a dozen of real premium gallery/carousel types, rich EXIF extraction, a free book print order per year, a couple of real premum themes made for photography...