To anyone who blogs on WordPress, posts videos to YouTube, updates Facebook, Tweets and has been experimenting with Google Plus: Tumblr might seem like a blog too far. Certainly, it seemed that way to me. But when I saw Comscore describe it dryly as “one of the fastest growing consumer oriented Internet sites” and Mashable eulogise over it’s growth in traffic from 2 billion per month to 13 billion in the past year – I decided to take another look.
If you’re not familiar with Tumblr, it’s often described as a halfway house between a blog and Twitter. It’s effectively a blog where you can post photos, videos, quotes, text and other snippets you find online, in a “tumble” of information. Typically, Tumblelogs resemble scrap-books, loosely held together by a theme, or the personality of the Tumblr, and, I have to say, I’ve usually found them less than inspiring.
That was until I came across ShortFormBlog.
At first glance ShortFormBlog is as unexciting as most of the other Tumblr sites I’ve seen. It’s a bit scrappy-looking, with photos, quotes and snippets of text logged one above the other. But that’s just until you realise what it represents: it’s a near perfect demonstration of online News curation.
In case you missed it, publishers who can curate and share high-value content rapidly and in easily digestible formats online are emerging as the modern News channels of choice. So to see that the people running this site are picking the most interesting photos, quotes, videos and extracts from other News sources (who are always credited) and simply sharing them without comment – thus saving me the bother of reading long articles or clicking through pages – is refreshing in the extreme.
Sure, Twitter’s great for headlines, but for real news you want photos, choice quotes and videos – not a whole blog post or article, but bite-sided snippets. This is Tumblr’s great strength and ShortFormBlog is a great example of what’s possible when you put this curation tool into the right hands.
You could say that Google Plus also offers bite-sized items of content in a stream that’s richer than Twitter, but less onerous than writing (or reading) a blog, yet Google Plus is still in it’s nascent months and will probably never offer the design configuration options that Tumblr does already. I also just don’t think Google Plus is designed for news aggregation, it’s too personal.
So, should you be using Tumblr?
If you’re a busy person seeking to build a loyal readership by finding and sharing interesting and valuable content, then yes, I think you should consider using Tumblr over, for example, a WordPress blog. If you’re hoping to attract random readers via SEO, though, Tumblr might not work. It’s been reported that Tumblr pages don’t rank well in search results. I would also recommend using it alongside Twitter, rather than instead of it.
Whether you decide to Tumbl or not, I’ll bet you’ll be reading Tumblr sites in the next 12 months. To my mind Tumblr stands out as a platform for content curation like no other – and for that it deserves our recognition.