So there’s a thought-provoking post on the Digital Connections blog from ad agency 360i that forwards the notion that brands should be using Tumblr for their corporate blog, largely because it’s easy to use and allows for easy sharing of videos, photos and other media.
I completely get what they’re going for and agree in a more limited manner that Tumblr *can* be part of a great corporate publishing strategy, as a number of media and other companies have already shown. But there are a number of issues that I have with the overall premise that need to be addressed:
First, there’s the ease of use. Sure, an installed WordPress setup is going to have a longer learning curve, but that’s because it does more. So there needs to be a cost/benefit analysis done when deciding on one platform over another, as there should be. What can one do at X price versus what the other does at Y price? I also don’t think that once someone gets the hang of a WordPress – or MovableType or whatever else – installation the perceived difficulty gets a lot lower. With a willing audience all it takes is a couple of training sessions for someone completely new to WordPress to completely get it.
Second, there’s the issue of owning the platform. When you use software that’s installed on your own hardware then you control its fate. If problems crop up it’s you and your team that is responsible for getting it fixed, you can give (hopefully) accurate estimates of when the problem will be fixed and can own the issue. Owning it all means you’re not dependent on someone else’s tech team, nor are you dependent on whatever company owns the remote software continuing to receive venture funding or eventually figuring out a business model.
Third, there’s the point that’s made about community. True, Tumblr and other platforms like it have great community-esque advantages baked in to them. But that doesn’t mean that community isn’t possible on other platforms that don’t have them as built-in feature sets. It just means a little bit more work is needed to achieve those benefits. The upside of that fact is that the community that’s built from the ground up is often stronger and more engaged than the one that comes right out of the box, which may be sizable but also may not provide much feedback or conversation.
Along these same lines I had largely the same reaction as Matt Mullenweg to a recent story that sought to ring the death knell of full-featured blogs (New York Times, 2/21/11) but then if you ask people I’ve talked to this is an opinion I’ve held for a while now. Sure it’s interesting to see how use of those full-featured blog platforms (WordPress, Blogger, MovableType, etc) has declined among young people in favor of Tumblr, Posterous and other sites as well as social networks like Twitter and Facebook.
But like Matt says, eventually they’re going to reach a point where either personally or professionally they’re looking for an experience they have more control over, both in terms of look and feel and in how they’re able to install software on their own servers and own the platform a bit more. Blogging may level off as young people use “light” blogging tools as a first step into online publishing but eventually many of them will migrate to “heavier” platforms. So there will be a consistent churn as they look for something more customizable to their needs.
This actually goes hand-in-hand with my opinion that, despite all sorts of studies showing young people are abandoning email, that they’ll eventually come back to it because there’s little reason to expect that it won’t dominate the world of business communication for years to come. So they may be using Facebook and social networks primarily now but eventually they will realize that in order to function they’ll need to get used to email and what it has to offer.
Again, I’m not shooting down the idea of using Tumblr or Posterous or another site like those as one component of a publishing strategy. But the advantages to owning the primary platform I think far outweigh those that are held by these blog-lite tools.