Yesterday Brian Stelter reported that Tumblr, the popular blogging platform, is hiring two journalists. They come in the form of Chris Mohney, senior vice president for content at BlackBook Media and Jessica Bennett, a senior writer at Newsweek and the Daily Beast.
This comes at a time of significant buzz around Tumblr its nearing 100 staff members and it recently passed 15 billion (!) pageviews per month. Its founder David Karp has been profiled in a national newspaper, and the type of curation pioneered by Tumblr is the type that has held journalists agog at conferences over the last six months.’
Traditionally a favourite online hangout of creative teens, journalists have got to Tumblr relatively late (it celebrates its 5th birthday this year), but what does the move to hire editorial staff tell us?
From Stelters piece:
Andrew McLaughlin, a vice president at Tumblr, said that in telling stories about its users, the company wanted Mr. Mohney and Ms. Bennett, the only two hires for the time being, to “do real journalism and analysis, not P.R. fluff.”
Looking at Tumblr as a city of 42 million residents and telling their story has very real benefits, both to users and advertisers. Reuters Anthony De Rosa has shed a bit more light on what Tumblrs content strategy might be in his interview with Bennett, where she says:
Think trend stories — the democratization of creation. Think on the ground: who are the teen tumblr users in a remote town in Ukraine, and how did they find the platform? Think big picture: how is social media changing the way we interact and engage? Think data: what can Tumblr users tell us about the current presidential race? The mandate is broad, and the format will go beyond the written word.
So is 2012 the year when players like Tumblr, Facebook and Google get into the content game properly?
In Facebooks case, its a maybe. The company has just hired Daniel Fletcher, a 2009 journalism graduate with previous stints at Time and Bloomberg to become their managing editor.
Hiring a journalist isnt a new thing for Facebook last year they hired former Mashable employee Vadim Lavrusik as their journalist program manager, tasked with building the sites reputation as a home for journalists. But this new hire seems like it could be closer to editorial whether its creating original content or smartening up Facebooks many corporate pages.
So what about Google? Larry and Sergeys employees always stay resolutely tight-lipped about whether Google sees itself as creating original content in future. Some clues may lie in how it seems to be shifting its purpose on the web.
One of Googles maxims is to organise the worlds information and make it universally accessible and useful. In simple terms, their search bar acts as a conduit to pass you on to wherever you wanted to go on the web quickly, efficiently, accurately. Now Google seems to be wanting you to hang around on its services, and bring them all into one place.
Its done this in three distinct ways.
First making logins and business accounts one and the same your email account will now log you in to all Google services.
Second Reorganising search to integrate with Google+ and allowing normal searches to crawl through Google+ accounts (unlike Facebook or Twitter).
Newspapers dream of knowing as much about their users as Google do.
If Google were to become a content creation company tomorrow, their recommendation system would be second to none, and their ability to dictate the flow of news would be unprecedented.
Of course Google doesnt need to take a step in that direction in order to continue to be monumentally successful, but the concept of Google producing their own content service rather than just serving up a platform isnt too hard to fathom given how much behavioural data could be fed into such a service.
If you look at trends and buzzwords in journalism over the last few years, its easy to see how they link up with Tumblr, Facebook and Google.
Tumblr thrives on curation, Facebook on community and Google on data. Given the trickle down effect to the journalism industry (tools like Storify becoming popular, community managers being increasingly in demand and the growing area of data journalism) it seems like any of these companies would find that they slot into the current ecosystem rather well.
Whether any news organisations would be pleased about that remains to be seen…