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The tumblr medium is the messages

The tumblr medium is the messages

According to Google, 25% of “what the internet is for” lives on tumblr.

My scientifically rigorous research shows that there are 1,390,000 returns for the exact phrase, “what the internet is for”.

And there are 351,000 returns for that phrase plus tumblr.

Quad Erat Demonstrandum – 25% of what the internet is for is on tumblr.

Including, obviously,

Tumblr is an innately charismatic platform. The presence of its name in a link makes you want to click.

Indeed, in my humble opinion, tumblr-based sites like Breaded Cats and WTF QR Codes are actually diminished by their proprietary URL’s. Given the choice between two links to the same content, one of which is an overt tumblr URL and one of which isn’t, I’m more likely to click the former.

Was tumblr born charismatic, did it achieve charisma, or did it have charisma thrust upon it by the kind of infectiously nerdy, tunnel-visioned content that seems to find its natural home there?

However it got there, the medium is now most definitely the message.

Several messages in fact.

Message 1.

This content is eccentric, original and infectiously nerdy.

Yes, a whole blog devoted to bastardised images of Robert Downey Junior as a pin-up girl.

For me the internet is at its best when it provides an outlet and an audience for people with imagination. And that’s just what tumblr does.

Don’t ask why. Ask why not.

Message 2.

This content is probably already a meme and you will remain out of he loop if you don’t check it out.

Tumblr is meme central. And its reputation for memes past raises expectations of memes present and memes future. If a tumblr link appears in your inbox or Twitter feed, there’s a good chance that it will be worth the click.

Message 3.

This content started as one person’s vision but it is now a collaborative, co-created, community project that you can be part of.

Tumblr has a beautifully simple, intuitive user interface. It is very easy to invite collaboration, and very easy for collaborators to submit content. And if there is a tumblr bandwagon for OCD art, there is a tumblr bandwagon for just about everyone to jump onto.

Message 4.

This content is so hot and topical it will burn your fingers.

Angelina Jolie flashes some right leg at The Oscars and by Monday everyone’s doing it.

Topical events create cultural context which creates conversations.

Tumblr amplifies these conversations. The topical memes flare up, capture the imagination, then flare down again.

The ability to participate, to create and share a new personal angle on the context, serves to extend the conversation.


That’s what tumblr means to me. It’s more than an enabling technology. It brings personality to the party as well as a platform.

This post was originally going to be a tweet. But I decided to go off on one instead.


  1. I’m not so convinced Phil. For a start, don’t we tell people that from a SEO brand POV it’s always best to have your own URL and that it looks better if it doesn’t have .wordpress or anything else attached to it? And yes, while you could say that the point of the above is that “adding the tumblr is a statement of intent, a declaration of the creativity involved” in an age of micro URLs like bitlys and ow.lys, how many people will know it’s a Tumblr?

    Also, if it’s really just about posting funny pictures don’t we have Flickr (for the oldies), Facebook (for the mediums) or Pinterest (for the new shiny, shiny brigade) to do that?

    Maybe I’m just being grumpy old man about it, but to me it’s little more than another free blogging site like Posterous – and I’d be no more inclined to click on a link because it had tumblr in it than .posterous or .wordpress.

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