On Tumblr abandoning in-house editorial

CEO David Karp speaks about his decision to eliminate Storyboard staff

Last week, Tumblr CEO David Karp announced the company was dissolving Storyboard, the editorial staff it had hired a year earlier to write stories about Tumblr.

“What we’ve accomplished with Storyboard has run its course for now, and our editorial team will be closing up shop and moving on,” Karp wrote on Tumblr’s staff blog.

On Wednesday morning, Karp spoke at the paidContent Live conference about the future of media, and one of the first questions lobbed at him was about the move away from content creation, though the entire point of having in-house editorial was to attract more attention to the platform, rather than to create quality content.

“Marketing Tumblr is really about surfacing all the incredible stuff that’s going on here,” Karp told GigaOm staffer Mathew Ingram. “One of the ways we hoped to do that was to start a Tumblr beat … like many creation ambitions, some work, some don’t. [Storyboard] didn’t work the way we intended for it to work.” He didn’t specify what “working” would’ve looked like—what sort of impact original content creation from a smallish team could make at a company that, Karp said, hosts 100 million blogs and whose users publish 90 million posts a day.

Do the cuts signify a move toward solely prioritizing user-generated content at the expense of professional journalism, Ingram asked?

“I think there’s something to that,” Karp replied. “We don’t want to be too prescriptive, ever,” he said, meaning he didn’t want one Tumblr community to feel like it’s more valuable or more worthy of attention than others. Facebook has an in-house editorial initiative, Facebook Stories, which covers “people using Facebook in extraordinary ways.” Its managing editor, Dan Fletcher, is leaving this month. With millions of users providing content, the company doesn’t need reporters, Fletcher reportedly said.

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Kira Goldenberg was an associate editor at CJR from 2012-2015. Follow her on Twitter at @kiragoldenberg. Tags: , , ,