Tumblr: the convergent machine


Convergence is ‘the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences who would go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they wanted’ (Jenkins 2006). This essay will focus on how does convergence affect the relationship between media technologies and audiences, specifically how social networking site Tumblr has accommodated convergent media practices for the audience. Tumblr has been described as ‘part blogging platform part social networking community, and part social media dashboard’ (Mansfield 2012) Launched in 2007 it has slowly grown in popularity. A month on Tumblr sees 507 million visits with 13 billion page views. When compared with websites like wordpress.com, which experiences roughly ten million more users than Tumblr, Tumblr is still receiving 70 million more views than WordPress. Tumblr has become very effecting in allowing its users to participate in convergence. Tumblr has created a participatory culture where uses are able to participate in global activism and citizen journalism, transforming into prosumers and as a result mobilising online and changing the read only culture. The recent acquisition of Tumblr by Yahoo has created massive concerns around the users privacy and what will happen to their online identity.


With Yahoo recently purchasing Tumblr, many users are concerned with what will happen with their online identities. Tumblr has never been a massive moneymaker, which causes concern as how Yahoo plans to make revenue to justify the 1.1 billion they spent in buying Tumblr. Fleury has stated that “Yahoo is hoping that its purchase of Tumblr will boost traffic to its other properties, such as the photo sharing site Flickr. But the $1.1bn question is: will it also help boost revenue?”(2013). Since it first started Tumblr has never hosted advertisements which Yahoo is already in the process of changing ‘Yahoo would now work with Tumblr to create ads that “are seamless and enhance the user experience”’ (Fleury 2013) which is concerning users that it will change the dynamics of Tumblr in that companies and even other users can sponsor their posts to be shown first which could transform Tumblr into a bidding war.  The joining of Tumblr and Yahoo will mean that users from both platforms will have new ways to access different types of content. Another benefit for Tumblr is that it will be able to develop faster from more diverse resources (Fleury 2013) when new media technologies join together with other media technologies it creates the opportunity for new ways for content to be shared across various platforms and it will be interesting to see what Yahoo and Tumblr do with this new partnership.


Convergence has lead to an activism culture on Tumblr, with many bloggers dedicating their posts to social justice issues around the world. Citizen journalism is on the rise on sites like Tumblr. Just within the last week, blogs have been dedicated to showing uncensored photos from the #occupygezi riots in Turkey. These photos have been posted live from all across Turkey, creating a network of collected intelligence that users on Tumblr can access without being censored. What this means for the audience is that it creates more options for them to access content without gatekeepers controlling what content they can see.


Everyday Tumblr creating more and more globalised content: ‘What takes off on Tumblr these days often breaks through as viral phenomena on the internet at large…Tumblr is unstoppable’ (Dumenco 2013). YouTube user Mcharris222 created his own remix video of popular Disney movies called ‘A Disney sing-along sequel’ and put it on to YouTube in March 2012. The video went viral when the video was shared on Tumblr, which resulted in thousands of views. Mcharris222 then created another video, ‘Thank you Tumblr ;)’ in April 2012 thanking the users on Tumblr for creating so many views. The audience does not want to be restricted by when they can access their content for example only when a show airs every week.  As Jenkins (2006) describes “desires of consumers to have the media they want where they want it, when they want it, and in the format they want”. Social media sites like Tumblr have started to cater to this desire which has been a major par of why Tumblr has been receiving large volume of traffic daily. ‘Tumblr’ has become a bigger Google search than ‘Blog’ (Alfonso III 2013) and is now listed as one of the ten top websites visited worldwide (. Prosumers have been given a platform to which they can share their content and have it reach thousands of viewers.


Convergence has affected the relationship between the producers and the audience. The audience is actively creating a participatory culture in that there has been more online mobilization by the audience. At the end of 2011, NBC cancelled the television show Community from returning in 2012. Through sites like Tumblr and twitter, the fans organised a protest outside NBC’S Rockafella Centre, demanding that it be renewed for another season

Then, in arguably the most useful protest of the Occupy movement so far, a group of nefariously bearded Community fans from the dark timeline decided to flash mob NBC and express their disgruntlement – Trumbore (2011)

Eventually NBC responded to the protest and Community was at first renewed for just half a season. The audience has more tools then ever to be part of a participatory culture.  Firefly is well-known for having a very dedicated audience, what could of have happened if Tumblr was around when Firefly was cancelled. Perhaps a different outcome could have arisen ten years ago, that instead of being cancelled the fans could have caused a greater online presence. Platforms like Tumblr are reshaping the relationship between the audience and the industry as it is giving the audience tools to be heard and participate with the content.


Media corporations are starting to adapt to the changing relationship between the audience and the creators. Tumblr is being used frequently by the fans of the TV shows to critique of the most recent episodes and discuss up coming episodes. Media industries realise the new power the fans have in the dynamics of a programme.

Loyals are fans, and although they may be in the minority of viewers, “advertisers are increasingly realizing that they be better investing their dollars behind a show that have high favourability rather than shows that have high ratings” [24]. Indeed loyals tend to purchase more products, percentage wise, than do other types of media audience. When these producers court fans and fan communities, the resulting increase in critical praise and profits can also help the media company’ – (Booth 2010)

A new TV show Oxygen has teamed up with Tumblr to infuse their TV show with GIFS made by the fans (Hernandez 2013). Traditionally, GIFS were made by the fans to recap and pray tribute to their favourite part of the episodes, but Oxygen has designed its programme so that each week the fans GIFS will be part of the episode.  The producers have realised that audiences are looking for new types of engagement with their favourite content and have started to allow for that in their programming. Oxygen has transformed its content from a read only culture into a read write culture in that, the audience has freedom to engage with the content in a different way.


Recent research about the use of secondary screen use whilst watching television by Neuro insight, MCA Australia and the Seven Television Network has produced interesting results. Their results found that using social media at the same time as watching television programmes increased programme engagement with the audience by 9%. Four times during a programme, the average audience will interact with social media about the programme, which has resulted in details being encoded into the audiences memory (Quancast 2013). This means that the audience are more likely to remember specific elements from the television programmes. Fans then use the social media sites like Tumblr to discuss and reflect on these moments. This affects how producers take on their shows, recently television shows have started to provide their social media accounts information at the bottom of the screen so that their audiences can interact with the content on new channels. Producers are investing a lot more effort to encourage their audiences to participate on social media sites like Tumblr because they have discovered the benefits of using platforms like Tumblr in conjunction with their content.


Convergence has affect the relationship between media technologies and audiences in multiple ways, changing the way the audience gains content. The collaboration between different media technologies creates opportunities for new ways for the audience to engage with content. Social networking sites like Tumblr have become instrumental tools for users to be able to engage with their content more effectively. Globally it has given them a stage to share their intellectual property and participate with the content. It has help change consumers into prosumers where they are constantly finding new ways to engage with their content which has resulted in media industries changing the way they let their audiences engage with their content. The users have been given a platform without gatekeepers and censorship which has resulted in the freedom for citizen journalism.



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    2. Trumbore, D. 2011, Community Flash Mob Occupies NBC Rockefella Centre, collider.com, accessed 23/4/2013, http://collider.com/community-flash-mob/
    3. Hernandez, B A. (2013). Oxygen teams up with Tumblr to infuse TV Shows With GIFS, mashble.com, accessed 2/6/2013, http://mashable.com/2013/04/23/oxygen-tumblr-gifs-best-ink-2/.
    4. Miller, S. (2013). Social Media drives increase in TV programme engagement say studies, Research-live.com, Accessed 2/6/2013, http://www.research-live.com/news/news-headlines/social-media-drives-increase-in-tv-programme-engagement-says-study/4009516.article
    5.  Dumenco, S. 2013, ‘It’s a Crying Shame Tumblr Hasn’t Quite Figured Out Its Revenue Problem Yet’, Ad age, accessed 26/4/2013, http://adage.com/article/the-media-guy/tumblr-s-revenue-problem-a-crying-shame/240806/
    6. Alfonso III, F. (2013). ‘Tumblr’ Now More Popular Google Search than ‘Blog’, Daily Dot, Accessed 2/6/2013, http://www.dailydot.com/news/tumblr-blog-google-search-rankings/
    7. Mcharris222 (2012) ‘A Disney sing-along sequel’, Accessed 2/6/2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0v-V2_g4rI
    8. Mcharris222 (2012)‘Thank you Tumblr ;)’, accessed 2/6/2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6I-z1ccHns8
    9. Busis, H. (2013). Yahoo buys Tumblr:Should users of the meme machine be worried?. Available: http://popwatch.ew.com/2013/05/20/yahoo-buys-tumblr/. Accessed 7/6/2013.
    10. Fleury, M. (2013). Yahoo to buy Tumblr for $1.1 bn. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22591026 . Accessed 7/6/2013.
    11. Unknown. (2013). #occupygezi. Available: http://occupygezipics.tumblr.com.  Last accessed 7/6/2013.
    12. Quancast. (2013). Tumblr. Available: https://www.quantcast.com/tumblr.com. Last accessed 7/6/2013.

One thought on “Tumblr: the convergent machine

  1. Pingback: Internet Support Group 2: Another Funny Video From That Danisnotonfire… | Musings of a Mild Mannered Man

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