Coming Soon to Tumblr: Ads

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Tumblr, the five-year-old blogging platform with 52,352,325 blogs and counting, has finally decided that making a little money might be nice. Speaking at Ad Age’s Digital Conference yesterday, Tumblr’s founder and CEO David Karp announced that the site will start featuring sponsored “Radar” posts on users’ dashboards starting May 2.

That spot was previously reserved for popular posts from Tumblr users. This is a big change of heart from two years ago, when Karp told the Los Angeles Times, “We’re pretty opposed to advertising. It really turns our stomachs.”

(MORE: 30 Must-See Tumblr Blogs)

According to Ad Age, Karp now says he was an “idiot” for making that statement. While Tumblr doesn’t feature ads, it is home to many advertiser blogs from companies like IBM. On April Fools’ Day, online eyewear company Warby Parker created some media buzz by starting a Tumblr called Warby Barker featuring dogs wearing hip glasses.

Now posts from those blogs will appear in the Radar space, which Karp claims get 120 million impression a day, although it’s hard to know exactly how many it will get once people know it’s sponsored content. Karp says that the Radar posts will look essentially the same and won’t feature big blocks of ad copy.

Right now the company makes money by taking a percentage of custom Tumblr themes sold by various designers and by charging $1 for users to highlight specific posts on their followers’ dashboards. While investors will probably be happy to hear that Tumblr is looking to monetize its service, Tumblr’s legion of committed users might think otherwise.

Personally, I think it’s a good move. It keeps Tumblr’s uncluttered aesthetic intact and makes sure the company actually has enough money to improve its notoriously unreliable infrastructure. Users might not like ads, but they like Tumblr being down even less.

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