Tumblr is belatedly joining Facebook and Twitter in offering something social media users are already growing quickly accustomed to: live streaming video.

Better known as a home for looping GIFs, the social blogging service, owned by ailing tech giant Yahoo, is clearly playing a bit of catch-up by getting onboard with what its bigger competitors have tabbed as the Next Big Thing. And it's not even Tumblr's own live-stream tool, but a tool allowing you to share streams from other apps, notes Buzzfeed. The company is partnering with YouTube and live-streaming apps YouNow, Kanvas and Upclose.  

"Tumblr has always been a media agnostic platform. The energy and creativity in the live video space demanded that we partner with some of the most exciting services available to enable the continued innovation and limitless expression that our community has come to love, expect and enjoy," a spokesperson for Tumblr says in a statement.

The move comes as Tumblr has been struggling to grow its user base. It holds only a small share of U.S. social media users, and mostly only those from the young demographic that makes up the heaviest users of social media, according to analysts at eMarketer. The research firm has also projected that the gap between Tumblr and its social media competitors will only widen into the future.

Tumblr is used by about 8.7 percent of internet users in the U.S., a sliver of the 69.9 percent of users on any social media, according to a February eMarketer report. Most of those users are between the ages of 25 and 34.

The firm reported at the time it expected Tumblr to add 6.2 million users through 2020--while it projected Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest would add 26.9 million, 14.6 million and 12 million users, respectively, in the same time period. (Drawing on its own data, Instagram announced Tuesday that it has surpassed 500 million users.) 

So, will livestreaming do anything for Tumblr? It could, according to eMarketer Principal Analyst Debra Aho Williamson--but the going will be rough.

"It's not surprising that companies like Tumblr want get involved in live video, given how quickly it's growing.  Tumblr will have to work hard to gain a user base for this feature," she says in a statement. "For now, the options for advertisers are limited; companies can experiment with distributing live video feeds of their own, but there isn't much paid advertising. That will change, however; when Twitter starts streaming NFL games this fall, ads will be embedded."

It's hard not to read the move an instance of Yahoo coming late to the game, with its competitors already having staked claims to their shares of the market. Yet eMarketer doesn't see it that way. 

"This is an example of Tumblr seeing a trend and wanting to be sure it had something to offer. While Facebook and Twitter launched their live video platforms before Tumblr did, properties like Instagram and Snapchat have yet to get into this business," says Williamson. 


Published on: Jun 21, 2016