Meanwhile, established media came to Tumblr to engage their audiences, and in so doing revealed that the only audience that really matters is themselves.
Ha, exactly. Nailed it!
Yah, I remember talking about these lamestream media outlets on Tumblr back in June. Hope there’s outreach to the independents. Coatney, WIDEN THE TENT OR WE WILL IMPALE YOU WITH THE POLES.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot (hi, it’s Gillian, Capital’s public editor and the person in charge of our Tumblr). And, although I agree that lots of media outlets on here can get a little too cutesy-cozy on Tumblr, I don’t think it’s entirely fair to lead some kind of “unfollow” brigade against them.
Certainly, media organizations like us have to be reaching out to people beyond our bubble, find quality content, and pass it along to our community. It’s not only good practice—it makes us a better writers and editors because we learn so much from Tumblr users. It’s also really fun.
But there is one thing that I think is going on here that maybe no one has mentioned yet. Media is finding their media community on Tumblr.
I have a personal Tumblr, and when I first joined, I only followed friends and reblogged posts from people I knew in real life. Tumblr was a smaller community a couple of years ago, so that was probably only a half dozen accounts back then. I eventually discovered great content by following the people I trusted to send me the good stuff. Through those people, I found niche communities that I was interested in, like music and science, and started following the people they followed, etc. I even made new friends in real life* by reblogging their Tumblr entries. I essentially made my own community. But all of this took time and work.
Media companies already belong to a community when they join Tumblr. They figure they can trust The Economist, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, etc. to post good content, because they are good publications. They are also their competition, so they want to know what they are up to. So they follow, they say hi, they support. They are posting their content to see who reblogs it or likes it. Then they will know who their audience is on Tumblr, and how they might be able to reach into the other amazing niche communities that those people belong to like the illustration or feminist communities.
I think that it’s kind of amazing they’re all chatting each other up on here as is. Some publications still don’t even link to the competition on their own websites or give credit to blogs that break stories first. But here, on Tumblr, The New Yorker and The Atlantic are reblogging each other and exposing their same readers, the ones they desperately need to subscribe to their magazines, to each other’s stories. Remember when Newsweek and the Today Show Tumblrs started chatting it up and everyone got really excited about it? So last spring, I guess.
But we get it: seeing those posts reblogged by what seems to be every major media company gives us the willies too, even when we do it. Sometimes it’s a bit like being at one of those schmoozy mixers where it’s so obvious that everyone is there to “make an appearance” and pass around air kisses before they go to the bar where their real friends are going to be.
But I think there is maybe something a little friendlier going on here on Tumblr. Maybe that has to do with the structure of Tumblr. Or the fact that most of us are wrestling with a bleak or uncertain times in media. Or maybe we just really, really want The Atlantic to start following us already, so we’ll suck up to them and like their posts until they do.
But I’d say give them a chance. They’re trying to find their friends (or their enemies at least) first.
*Is there a better phrase for “in real life?” Don’t suggest “meatspace.”