Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg talks about plans for the company’s recent Tumblr purchase

Leveraging its recent Tumblr purchase, Automattic is looking to revive old school blogging.

Nilay Patel at

Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg thinks the future of Tumblr is bright — he wants the platform to bring back the best of old-school blogging, reinvented for mobile and connected to Tumblr’s still-vibrant community. And he’s retaining all 200 Tumblr employees to build that future. It’s the most exciting vision for Tumblr in years.

Matt joined Verge reporter Julia Alexander and me on a special Vergecast interview episode to chat about the deal, how it came together, what Automattic’s plans for Tumblr look like, and whether Tumblr might become an open-source project, like WordPress itself. (“That would be pretty cool,” said Matt.)

Oh, and that porn ban.

Mullenweg uses Tumblr.

He declined to confirm the reported purchase price of $3 million, which is peanuts compared with $1.1 billion that Yahoo paid. But he did say:

Verizon is a company that does over $120 billion dollars in revenue. They got Tumblr through Yahoo, which then merged with AOL, became Oath, got bought, became Verizon Media. It’s something they inherited a few levels down.

Their top priority was not trying to maximize the purchase price — there might even be a corporate reason for the purchase price to be lower, for taxes or something. They were really looking for where the best home was going to be. That was really where we tried to optimize the deal, especially in terms of bringing over close to 200 people. We’re taking them all on. I am aware of some of the details of some of the bidders — you know they were not planning to keep much, if any, of the team going.

We did more of a Berkshire Hathaway approach: we really want to bring over the management team, take what was working well, which is Tumblr’s engagement,and grow from there.

I do like to think this is what happened at Verizon. They knew they were not the right company to give Tumblr the care it deserved, but they took the time to be responsible and find it a good home.

For Tumblr I think this is the best possible outcome.

Don’t believe the rumors. Tumblr is still home to vibrant blogs and communities. I’m looking forward to seeing what Automattic does with it.

The porn ban is wrong, but given today’s economic climate it’s not unexpected. If you run adult content you run the risk of being blocked in the Google and Apple app stores – which briefly happened to Tumblr and which likely precipitated the porn ban. No company can afford that. (How do Reddit and Twitter get away with it? Mullenweg says he doesn’t know. Maybe they’re big enough that Google and Apple are afraid of blocking them.) “I will say that overall, a really thriving home for adult content is probably best for a company or a website which is totally dedicated to it,” Mullenweg says.

All sorts of interesting hints here on where Tumblr might go. Mullenweg says he’d like to restore RSS integration so you can follow things that aren’t actually on Tumblr, and bring Tumblr back to the open web.

I want to create a place on the web which is fun and supportive and substantial. You’re an old-school web user — at one point blogging had a real magic to it. A frisson. You’d have blog rolls and links and people would follow and comment and you’d keep up with things and it was a really, really nice social network. But it also was totally distributed and people had their own designs, and all those sorts of things. I think we can bring some of that back and reimagine it in the mobile world which is where Tumblr is also super strong….

“… I hope and believe that Tumblr’s best days are actually ahead of it.”

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