Verizon to Sell Tumblr to WordPress Parent Company

Terms of its deal with software company Automattic Inc. were not disclosed

illustration of hands exchangin tumblr logos for money
Verizon had been looking for a Tumblr buyer since at least May. Getty Images, Tumblr

Verizon started looking to offload Tumblr since at least May. Now it’s found a taker.

Automattic Inc., the software company behind the online publishing platform WordPress, has agreed to scoop up the blogging platform both companies said Monday afternoon. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The sale will put Tumblr, which hosts hundreds of millions of blogs, in the company of the publishing platform WordPress along with the journalism site Longreads and the note-taking app Simplenote. It also takes Tumblr out of Verizon’s portfolio as the media giant focuses on building out its original content and subscription businesses on sites like HuffPost and TechCrunch.

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of a thoughtful, thorough and strategic process,” Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan said in a statement about the transaction. “Tumblr is a marquee brand that has started movements, allowed for true identities to blossom and become home to many creative communities and fandoms. We are proud of what the team has accomplished and are happy to have found the perfect partner in Automattic.”

More than 200 staffers who worked on Tumblr at Verizon will be moving over to Automattic, a Verizon spokesperson said.

The Wall Street Journal was first to report the acquisition.

In a blog post about the acquisition, Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg wrote that he thought Tumblr and WordPress were “philosophically aligned” with a mission to democratize publishing.

“When the possibility to join forces became concrete, it felt like a once-in-a-generation opportunity to have two beloved platforms work alongside each other to build a better, more open, more inclusive—and, frankly, more fun web,” Mullenweg wrote. “I knew we had to do it.”

Tumblr was once a rising star of the internet after it was founded in 2007. In 2013, Yahoo, then under the leadership of former CEO Marissa Mayer, bought the blogging site for $1.1 billion as part of an effort to bring more young viewers under the Yahoo umbrella. Despite Mayer’s promise “not to screw it up,” Yahoo failed to figure out how best to monetize the platform and often wrote down the site’s value.

Verizon, of course, bought Yahoo and all of its assets in 2017 for $4.5 billion.

The platform was last in the news in December after Verizon banned adult content from the site, angering and alienating some of its user base. Mullenweg told the Journal that Automattic plans to continue the adult content ban following the acquisition.

@kelseymsutton Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.
Publish date: August 12, 2019 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT