Tumblr fashion director Rich Tong (pictured), who took a lot of heat over Tumblr’s haphazard exploitation of fashion advertisers, has left the company, according to Mashable and The New York Observer. One interpretation of the move is that there is pressure on CEO David Karp to develop a real business model around the fast-growing blog service and to bring some grown-ups into the management ranks.
Karp took another $85 million in funding for Tumbler in September. His problem is that Tumblr so far only offers advertising space for clients, and that doesn’t make it compelling or unique. There is a massive oversupply of web-based ad media right now.
Worse, Tumblr is highly dependent on copyright violations for its content. A huge portion of its bloggers are simply posting photographs they found elsewhere and do not own the rights to.
Even worse than that, a large portion of Tumblr’s traffic and bloggers are driven by porn. Advertisers do not like X-rated content.
Take away the Digital Millennium Copyright Act violations and the adult content, and there’s not much else going on at Tumblr.
Nonetheless, Tumblr gets 350 million visits per month, and if Karp’s investors want their money back they’ll need to start selling ads in front of those eyeballs.
Tong was more of a designer — some of his creations are extremely elegant — but he wasn’t an ad sales guy. At one point he reportedly asked fashion labels to pay $10,000 to meet Tumblr’s most influential fashion bloggers; and that he asked for $150,000 for a run of the mill promotional package centered on a banner ad. (It’s actually illegal for advertisers to pay bloggers without those payments being disclosed.)
Adult supervision required.